Directed by Sam Firstenberg, Revenge of the Ninja is the second of three unrelated ninja pictures from Cannon Films. The first entry, Enter the Ninja, introduced the West to Japanese martial artist Sho Kosugi and his many talents. This 1983 follow-up not only features Kosugi again, it pulls his nine-year-old son Kane Kosugi into the action.
Produced by David Womark, Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan with a script by James Silke, Revenge of the Ninja is typical action-adventure fare. It features an East-meets-West scenario, like its predecessor, but focuses the plot on the Japanese protagonist arriving in Salt Lake City to start a new life.
The action opens in Japan at the home of Cho Osaki (Sho Kosugi). His family is set upon by mysterious ninjas, who massacre the entire bunch save for the protagonist, his son (Kane Kosugi) and his mother (Grace Oshita). Distraught, Cho vows revenge but is urged to flee to the United States with the help of his business partner Braden (Arthur Roberts).
Cho reluctantly heads to Utah with his son, his mother and Braden and opens up an art gallery. Life is going fairly well until a chance discovery that Braden has been using “Oriental art” to transport drugs. The mob is involved as well and Braden’s assistant Kathy (Ashley Ferrare) complicates things. When the mafia targets Cho’s family yet again, he has no choice but to return to his ninja ways.
Revenge of the Ninja opens with an elaborate and violent ambush sequence, with a crowd of black-clad ninjas taking down an entire family. The sequence includes all sorts of ninja weapons and techniques, with a kid getting a shuriken to the face and the women cut down with swords and knives.
Unfortunately, Firstenberg does little with the vengeance angle and flips Cho to America. He ends up playing second fiddle in a conflict between Braden and the mafia, with mob boss Chifano (Mario Gallo) stepping to the fore as a cardboard antagonist and Keith Vitali emerging as a sympathetic police officer.
Revenge of the Ninja occasionally flirts with giving Kosugi more to do, like when he trains Kathy and notes that she can’t properly work out because she forgot her pants. Any flirtations between the two are pushed to the backburner, even after her inevitable “accidental betrayal” and a rescue sequence that involves young Kane.
Speaking of Kane, he’s quite the formidable martial artist. He handles more than one action sequence on his own, taking down a cluster of school bullies in view of his pleased grandmother and handling his business when Chifano’s thugs take certain liberties.
The elder Kosugi does have a chance to display his martial arts chops and the action sequences are extensive to the point of excess. One scene finds Cho fighting off a group of thugs and taking the action on the road as he follows the van, dangles off the vehicle, smashes his way through to the inside, and kicks ass as only he can.
Everything culminates in a final ninja versus ninja showdown, which has the decency to take place during daylight hours. This gives the rooftop bout a certain unembellished quality. Cho and his opponent dig in for a eyeliner-tinged fight that uses the kitchen sink of ninja trickery. David Gurfinkel’s cinematography keeps things simple.
Revenge of the Ninja isn’t the most resourceful actioner, but it’s a solid specimen of what drove the ninja craze and Kosugi is a considerable if underutilized hero. The elastic plot leaves a lot to be desired and things are played too close to the chest, but this is still an effective and fun flick.