Saturday, August 30, 2008

Enter the Ninja

The Action Mutant…
always seems to be calling out for his “ninja”. Ninja? Ninja?

Enter the Ninja

review by Joe Burrows

In honor of this review, let’s play America’s favorite game (according to 273 unemployed men)…”Would _____ make it as a Ninja?”:
Charles Bronson: Has the “code of silence” thing down pat. Might be a tough sell because of the lack of Martial Arts but if you need someone to take out an entire city block in three days, using nothing more than a cache of firearms, then he’s your man.
Steven Seagal: Might be the most credible person on the list (just based on skill level) but he’d be quite the rotund ninja at this point. Might be better served in a “Samurai Delicatessen” role (a la John Belushi), where he could slice & dice people from the convenience of his butcher’s block.
Van Damme: Again, another viable candidate but the voice may cause problems. I’d be more likely to understand an Asian ninja with NO English to his credit than JCVD & his mumbling (“Work smawder, not hawder!” My ass!).
Wesley Snipes: Now, that’d be one cool, fucking ninja! And the stealth skills would come in handy for him when evading creditors.
Chuck Norris: No, because ninjas are too conspicuous & noisy, even compared to Chuck Norris.
Dan Aykroyd: Loose Cannons 2: Death of a Ninja Salesman. Co-starring Dane Cook as his mentally slow sidekick, Toots. Dennis Dugan set to direct. “Chris Farley made a better ninja”, says L.A. Times.
Sonny Chiba: See The Executioner. It ruled. The End.
Da Governator: Too much shtick. After hitting a bad guy with a ninja star: “Catch a rising star, Bennett!”
Christopher George: No, but he would have made an excellent game show host!

The Plot, as it was:
Franco Nero (Django, Die Hard 2) stars as Cole, a former Army officer and recently certified Ninja. He visits his old war buddy Frank Landers (Alex Courtney) & Frank’s sultry wife Mary Ann (Susan George) in the Philippines and they could not have it much worse. The couple is being harassed by unscrupulous businessman Charles Venarius (Christopher George) & hook handed goon Siegfried (Zachi Noy) to give up their valuable land so Venarius may expand his operations. Frank’s a drunken husk of his former self but Mary Ann’s the feisty one that won’t go without a fight. Luckily, Cole is on the scene and ready to dispatch anyone sent the Landers’ way...however, things get hairier when a ninja from Cole’s past (Sho Kosugi) is sent to do Cole in. Holy Ninja!

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Enter the Ninja is both a seminal film and a forgettable one in the American landscape. It’s noteworthy for the fact that it was the film that started the whole “ninja” craze in America that would last for the better part of the decade (not to mention the film that technically kicked off Cannon’s run of bloody craziness in the 80s). However, it’s also a pretty bad film that gets by on unintentional hilarity and the audaciousness that would become standard from the Go-Go brothers. Seriously, I couldn’t stop chuckling during the opening “ninja training” sequence, as it was easily the cheesiest and most inept thing I’ve seen in a while. Then again, it’s Cannon so that’s part of the charm. The film can’t help but to be entertaining, even when its badness is at its most supreme (and when the film slows somewhat during the non-Action parts). Consider this exchange, courtesy of a review from

Charles Venarius [Discussing Cole]: Twenty men? He got rid of 20 men? That's impossible!
Mr. Parker: Impossible or not sir, he took care of them all.
Charles Venarius: This is due to one man?
Mr. Parker: Not an ordinary man sir.. .a ninja!
Charles Venarius: A WHAT?
Mr. Parker: A ninja... one who has studied ninjitsu. [Helpfully pulls out notepad] I made some notes.

He “made some notes”? Tremendous! Most of the bad lines come from George, whose game show host haircut and cackling, over-the-top delivery make for quite the memorable show (along with perhaps the best death scene EVER! Honestly, I could watch that all day!). Inept is also Nero not exactly being adept at the ninja style and looking pretty awkward in his close-ups that require fighting (though he is solid with his actual performance). And I couldn’t figure out if Noy was supposed to be a stereotypical German villain in the Peter Lorre mold, a leprechaun or what (though it was funny to see his hook thrown to him and have it accompanied by a “Wah-wahhhhhhh” trumpet sendoff.). However, if you came in to this wanting to see a serious, competent, tightly wound Action film…then you should have noticed something was up when you saw what studio produced it (and finding out that the director is none other than good ol’ Uncle Menachem Golan!). It’s trashy, exploitive and violent; it’s Cannon…(Sho) ’nuff said. EtN is entertaining in spite of all of those faults and fans of the genre (and Cannon schlock in general) will find much to enjoy on a “so bad, it’s good” basis.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Chuck Norris disciple Bob Wall (Enter the Dragon) and future Cannon staple Michael Dudikoff are uncredited as two of Venarius’ henchmen.

Body Count/Violence: 36. Quite the bloody affair, though I did count about 8 or 10 after-the-fact kills. Still, the audience is treated to sword slashes, severed heads, throat slashing, stabbing, shooting, bench impaling (!), ninja star use, arm & neck breaking, body dragging by truck, lots of martial arts fighting, etc. My favorite death has to be when a security guard has the dreaded “mosquito spikes” driven into his face! There are also some legit cockfights in two scenes, which may have been due to the fact that the film was shot overseas where such things may be more lax.

Sexuality/Nudity: Dollars (Will Hare) distracts more than a few people with photos of nude ladies in his jacket, which are only glimpsed briefly. Susan George is in many a loose fitting outfit and is therefore very appealing in this flick (unlike in Straw Dogs, where her pouting & simpering every five seconds got to be much).

Language/Dialogue: A few strong profanities but that’s not the main entity here.

How bad was it?:
The few reviews I read definitely rank it as bad, some say beyond bad. Though I wouldn’t go that far, the majority of the critical “acclaim” does admit it’s an unusually fun, grade D actionier.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Despite Enter the Ninja being a worldwide box office hit and the initial film of the ninja phenomenon, its budget/gross records are not posted anywhere. It was released in America by Cannon on 10/2/81 and that’s about all that’s really out there. There is no American Region 1 DVD out on the market yet so bug MGM about that until that oversight can be rectified.

Film: **/*****
Entertainment value: ****/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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