Enter the Ninja (1981) / Action-Adventure
MPAA Rated: R for violence, language and some sexuality
Running Time: 94 min.
Cast: Franco Nero, Susan George, Alex Courtney, Christopher George, Sho Kosugi, Will Hare, Zachi Noy, Constantine Gregory (Constantin de Goguel)
Director: Menahem Golan
Screenplay: Dick Desmond
Review published June 12, 2005
Enter the Ninja is typical Golan Globus, Cannon films, B-movie schlock, but not completely intolerable, thanks to a dose of self-deprecating humor that lets us know this adventure isn't meant to be taken too seriously. It would be known as the first of the "Ninja" trilogy of films (Revenge of the Ninja and Ninja III: The Domination would follow) featuring martial arts actor Sho Kosugi (Blind Fury, Black Eagle), although he is featured in a secondary supporting role here. Instead, the star is Franco Nero, a charismatic Italian actor better known for being in spaghetti westerns, with Django perhaps his most notable. He may not be able to throw a decent kick to save his life, but at least he exhibits some charisma, which in a movie as terribly executed as this one is, is like a welcome breath of fresh air.
Nero plays Cole, a veteran soldier who has spent his post-war years training in the ways of ninjitsu, learning and honing his skills as an assassin in the ways of the ancient Japanese martial arts. Traveling the globe, his latest adventure takes him to the Philippines, where and old army buddy, Frank Landers, is being muscled in on for his land by a greedy entrepreneur named Venarius, which he refuses to give up due to wanting to please his wife, Mary Ann (Susan George, Tintorera). Cole is a one-man army, able to thwart off the dozens of men Venarius throws his way, but an old rival in the ways of the ninja named Hasegawa is recruited for the bad guys, because it sometimes takes a ninja to kill a ninja.
Enter the Ninja does deliver in the violence department, with enough killings, throat-slices, and beheadings to sate the most blood-thirsty viewers out there. What it lacks is quality in almost every other department, as it is quite poor in dialogue, acting, and special effects. The dubbing is particularly bad, with voices that curiously sound like they don't belong to any of the actors (perhaps they don't). Franco Nero looks formidable enough to think he could kick some ass, but when it comes time, it is pretty obvious that someone else is doing the fighting for him. Veteran actor Christopher George (City of the Living Dead, Chisum) scores some laughs in a comical role as the main villain, Mr. Venarius.
Enter the Ninja is pretty laughable stuff, and will most likely please only people who actually like bad action movies. This certainly does qualify as one. It is also the first of many in the subgenre of ninja exploitation films that would come out for the next several years, most so bad that they make substandard crap Enter the Ninja look like a masterpiece by comparison.
©2005 Vince Leo