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Simply Ninja!: Rage of Honor (a movie review)

Nothing can bring out both feelings of nostalgia and of relaxing peace of mind than a nice little flick from 1980s. And today we’ll talk have just such one here.

If you grew up during aforementioned 1980s, chances are you’ve encountered a seriously faced Japanese actor named Sho Kosugi, starring in some of the better flicks of the 80s ninja craze (the other, worse – and far worse – flicks belong to Godfrey Ho, Joseph Lai and Robert Tai manufacture). With facial expressions even less of variety than those of one guy named Chuck Norris, Kosugi nevertheless captivated his audience by portraing usually good ninjaor – as in this movie – semi-ninja.

Rage of Honor is basically a mindless action movie which could even work as an arcade game. Enter the room/location, beat’em up, shoot’emup, follow the arrow to the next location until the final boss. Sounds familiar? Well, RoH follows this routine to the letter.

Sho Kosugi as Shiro Tanaka, straight from the dinner with his girlfriend

Sho Kosugi plays Shiro Tanaka, a sort of DEA agent of James Bond variety pursuing a sadistic killer Havlock (played by great-in-this-role Lewis van Bergen) who is responsible for killing his partner Ray (Richard Wiley). Yep, it’s that simple. In the end, Tanaka wins. OK, this is the spoiler, but in the 1980s we haven’t been yet used to unexpected storyline twists, neither to main heroes dying – not in this kind of actioners, that’s for sure!

Lewis van Burden as a sadistic killer Hevlock

Now, why to watch this movie? Speaking personally, it’s a matter of nostalgia, I remember watching this movie at my friend’s place (he was a lucky one as he had a video player way earlier than me, and strangely, the bootlegged tape has a title “Top Fighter”. Well, how to confuse things, right? But in the world of exploitation, nothing unusual (and exactly the same thing happened watching Gymkata, which has carried a title of “Asia Mission”).

Robin Evans in her last acting role as Shiro’s girlfriend Jennifer Lane

Anyway, the silliness of the movie makes it so fun to watch, a really guilty pleasure. Shiro, when commanded by his superior to let the investigation go (like yeah, they’ve killed my partner and I will just let it go, right!), resigns from the police force and goes to Argentina to investigate the link in the murder, and what do you bring with you while investigating cold blooded killers and druglords? Well, your girlfriend, of course! And she apparently knows even the details of the mission, of course, you should share the intel with just anyone. Soon enough there is an attempt for her life so Shiro sends her, along with his other friend Dick (Charles Lucia)to safety, but alas, bad guys took over the plane! Tough, mate!

Anyway, when one of the drug runners is caught by the police, Shiro makes a brilliant move and let himself to be locked up in the same prison.Not that he can do much except to unlock the cell doors and kill –and here we go – ninjas sent to kill the witness (and killed he was, as  Yoda would say). But he is released the next day due to the intervention of American officials. Shiro, not the dead witness.

Now aware of the kidnapping of his girlfriend, Shiro heads for the jungle, fully equipped with various ninja movies and tools and sometimes one wonders – where the hell did you put it? Especially great is the walkie-talkie or CB radio, which apparently worked even when Shiro went underwater for a swim.

Be it as it is, even jungle natives are no match for our hero – remember comparing it to a arcade video game? That would be a jungle location. 🙂 Now, killing basically everyone and even the main villain Havlock, American official radioes Shiro to bring the disc (5¼ floppy, remember that one?), because for some strange reason all this happens because of this, to an abandoned factory. Strangely, and that’s the real beauty of action b-movies’ logic, Shiro does indeed deliver the disc to that place, even when a chopper which should transport him, originally brought in some enemy ninjas hell-bent to kill him. Yeah, nothing suspicious, I guess.

Bang, bang, another regiment of bad guys is down without even scratching Shiro, …but what the hell! Havlock is not dead, and the end boss fight can begin. And you know who win.

Final observations: Kosugi looks better with wet hair. Van Burden is just a f*cking perfect as a vicious killer and the abundance of mullets, moustaches, perms and nice 80s clothing just made my day. To be honest, I won’t class it as my all-time favourite, but unlike many others, I am willing to re-visit this flick again in the future.

Rudolf Schütz

A father to two little perpetuum mobiles called kids, Rudolf is a main force behind The Rubber Axe webzine, a bookworm, musick lover and a movie fan - not to mention his virgin forays into the comics and board/card games.

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