Ninja III: The Domination (1984)

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The third and final movie in the disparate Ninja trilogy from Cannon Films, Ninja III: The Domination is a weird web of martial arts, fantasy and who knows what else. Directed by Sam Firstenberg, this 1984 flick features a screenplay by James Silke and is produced by David Womark, Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan.

While Revenge of the Ninja and Enter the Ninja held fast to a sort of East-meets-West set-up, Ninja III: The Domination is more interested in what happens when a fallen ninja possesses an aerobics instructor and telecommunications worker.

The picture opens on a golf course, with David Chung suiting up for a ninja attack on a scientist. He slices and dices his way through a multitude of golfers and responding police officers before he seems to get caught in a hail of bullets. The ninja struggles his way to telecommunications worker Christie (Lucinda Dickey) and winds up possessing her.

The possession of Christie, who also just so happens to be an aerobics instructor, leads to a series of curious events. She falls in love with a cop (Jordan Bennett) and kicks some butt while meting out the dead ninja’s inner desires for vengeance. There are attempts at banishing the spirit and the arrival of another ninja (Sho Kosugi) seems to restore the balance.

Ninja III: The Domination straddles numerous genre lines on its way through its rambling, irrational plot. There are aerobics sequences that seem to summon Dickey’s role as Kelly from the Firstenberg-helmed Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo and there are moments of dominant street fights, with the protagonist kicking some serious thug ass.

There’s even a possessed hot tub homicide, with Dickey’s Christie wiping out a thug with pinpoint precision. The scene toys with fleshly oomph, especially as two hot young things scurry away from the sexually dominant lead as she wades toward her quarry.

And there are the fantastical sequences, with the sword floating around on a string and James Hong’s Miyashima trying to handle the spiritual realm. That doesn’t even mention Christie’s V8-related method of seduction, which may make for one of the most inexplicable pre-love scenes in cinematic history.

Of course, the inexplicability of Ninja III: The Domination is part of its zany charm. It’s not as fun as Ninja Terminator and not as consistent as Revenge of the Ninja, but it’s a well-meaning entry in the 1980s ninja boom and proves just how silly things can get.

Dickey makes for a decent if underwhelming lead and she doesn’t have the disposition to back up the more unpredictable notions of her character. It’s hard to buy her as a crazed linewoman when she’s not busting a move to try to shake off the willies, but her physical prowess is on-point and her aerobics class is probably pretty solid.

As for Kosugi, he’s an addendum and that’s a shame. He shows up to mop up and his presence is instantaneously captivating, as it was in Revenge of the Ninja and its precursor. His martial arts are bad-tempered and forceful, but he’s outdone by the ditzy carnival couple at the centre of it all.

Ninja III: The Domination is a worthwhile venture for those looking for a little cheese with their shuriken, but it’s not a “good movie” by any extent. Critically, it’s the worst of the Ninja trilogy from Cannon. Uncritically, it’s the most batshit crazy of the bunch and one of the strangest movies of the entire genre. That’s saying a lot.

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