And now it comes to this, the most absurd of Cannon Films’ ninja movies: NINJA III: THE DOMINATION. This 1984 flick is feverishly entertaining, the best kind of shlock. Directed by Sam Firstenberg, whose REVENGE OF THE NINJA is a solemn elegy to violent certainty by contrast, this thing is an agitated romp only weakened by a range of draggy demon possession sequences.
Under most circumstances, demon possession sequences would be adequate highlights. But in the realm of NINJA III: THE DOMINATION, said scenes hinder the free-flowing action and campy humour. The best bits of this film involve ninja ass-kicking, eyepatches, aerobics, and V8. The supernatural stuff, essential to the plot as it is, kind of gets in the way.
NINJA III: THE DOMINATION begins with a wild sequence on a golf course as a ninja (David Chung) kills some yuppie douchebag and fights off a horde of cops in the process. Said ninja expires, but not before he can pass his spirit along to telephone linewoman Christie (Lucinda Dickey). She has to carry on his rancorous quest, all while entering a romance with a cop (Jordan Bennett). It’s only when another ninja (Sho Kosugi) drops in that she has a hope of normality.
Dickey’s Christie is living a pretty good life. She plays video games and teaches aerobics, all while shunning things like soda and coffee. She’s the picture of health, which makes her a model candidate for ninja possession. There’s a lot of mystical crap, like a glowing sword floating from her closet and some lights and voices. At point, Christie and her boyfriend seek the assistance of James Hong’s character because why not.
Kosugi, the star of REVENGE OF THE NINJA and the bad guy from ENTER THE NINJA, does the job of troubled onlooker for the bulk of NINJA III. He gets to wear an eyepatch, which inevitably makes him awesome. He’s tracking the ninja spirit inside Christie and seems to know what’s going on, which is more than most of us can say.
Firstenberg’s movie is bursting with typical B-movie madness, but sometimes things get really odd. At one point, Christie is waylaid by an obnoxious group of assailants just outside her gym. A crowd gathers and NOBODY HELPS HER as she fights off the men. Later, her cop admirer – easily the hairiest of the rubbish bystanders – half-jokes that she could be charged with assault for what she did to those fellas.
There is not an ounce of NINJA III: THE DOMINATION that demands to be taken seriously, which slips it well in line with the other outings in this anthology. The climactic battle is good but not great, particularly because it shoves Christie aside. It makes “sense” given the plot, but still feels somewhat lacklustre. Sometimes, even in the world of ninja demons and V8 paramours, life’s not fair.