Review: Pray For Death (1985)


Starring Sho Kosugi, Kane Kosugi, Shane Kosugi

Fight Choreography by Sho Kosugi

Directed by Gordon Hessler

This film should serve as a public service announcement to mobsters everywhere. Should a badass ninja warrior board your boat, jack up twenty of your hired goons, and appear behind you with a knife and threatens to kill you in such a way that you’ll pray for death before it’s over if you don’t stop jacking with his family and then disappears without a trace, you should probably leave his family the hell alone. One such mobster named Limehouse decides not to listen to this, and a very brutal lesson is learned.

Sho Kosugi plays Akira Saito, a business man who hides from his children (it’s hinted that his wife knows) that he is in fact a badass retired ninja, and we find out the reason why he retired when we go into a flash back to find that his martial arts brother dressed as a ninja and tried to steal from the temple, and is stopped after a good fight not by Saito, but from clumsiness that comes straight from a Home Alone film as he slips on his scabbard and impales himself on his own sword he had stabbed into a pillar a moment earlier. Okay, so the impaling isn’t Home Alone, but I betcha that would’ve made that film a whole lot cooler. Anyway, as Saito’s wife Aiko is mixed race anglo-american and japanese, he decides to move his family to Houston, Texas so she can be closer to that side of her family over there. Unfortunately since you know this film’s called Pray for Death, you just know shit has to go wrong, and that will probably cost his wife Aiko her life. The kid’s will make it because they are a) Sho’s sons in real life, and b) they’re contractually obligated to live…and kick ass. Saito buys a restaurant from retiree, and changes it to a Japanese restaurant. Unknown to Saito, and even the previous owner, is that the local mob is using the back room of the restaurant to move stolen merchandise that a pair of corrupt cops leave for them. Two cops decide to keep an expensive necklace for themselves, and that sets off a tragic chain of events as Limehouse and his mob believe that Saito has the necklace.

They start by kidnapping Saito’s youngest son Tomoya while he oldest son Takeshi is beating up some local kids who try to steal Tomoya’s bicycle, and Kane is great in this scene, beating the crap out of these kids. Limehouse sees this when he takes Tomoya to his car, and instead of trying to fight Takeshi, he saves himself the embarrassment by punching Takeshi dead in the face as he runs up to the car, and then knocks the shit out of him with the car door. I’ll give it up for Limehouse here. Yeah, that’s a dick move, but he thought it better than being beaten up like a bitch by a eight-year-old.

Saito goes to get Tomoya back from Limehouse, and escapes with his son. Further pissed off Limehouse has some of his men hit Aiko and Tomoya with a car. I mean, shit. Limehouse doesn’t believe in doing any half-assed. Aiko and Tomoya are both still alive and taken to the hospital, and Saito pays a visit to Limehouse’s boat where he’s having a party. Saito decides that black leather clothing would suffice instead of a ninja costume, and sneaks his way onto the boat and delivers the public service announcement I had already mentioned.

Not really understanding the three strikes rule, Limehouse infiltrates the hospital and kills Aiko (told you) and gets away before he can do the same to Tomoya. Not really caring for the police, Saito takes his sons to a warehouse he owns and is so pissed off he forges his own sword in the warehouse. Do you realize how pissed off you have to be to do this? The work, the heat, the money spent, oh shit yeah, someone’s gonna die badly.

Not only that, but after he leaves for vengeance, Takeshi has to defend Tomoya from the mobsters who find out he’s there, and does so with the aid of a ninja bicycle. Damn right, this bike is a 4-speed and also has detachable nunchaku, pink gas that erupts from the back, a slingshot you can draw back and smack a guy right in the nuts should he grab the bike from the front, and side bars that can come out and trip up anyone he rides by. That is simply badass. You leave to kill people, but you also leave your little boy a ninja death bicycle. Once I have a kid he’s getting one of those. Damn straight.

The final fight isn’t great or well done as Limehouse is more of a challenge than he should be, but the moment he meets his end would make the Jigsaw killer in Saw really happy as Limehouse meets a bloody end that really does make him pray for death. Saito returns to his sons, and they decide to stay in the USA since there is so much more ass to kick here.

The film has really shoddy production values, and unfortunately most of Sho Kosugi’s American films do, but Sho and his sons elevate the film, even overcoming terrible cinematography that add nothing to the fight scenes. The acting is terrible, but Sho’s onscreen presence is undeniable. The fight scenes range from okay to decent, and features some good ninja stuff, but overall could have been much better. This is one film that really took itself way too seriously.

(Out of scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREGRAPHY: (6) Sho is capable of much better, but the fight scenes were not too exciting. This is largely due to the fact that he doesn’t fight anyone who knows anything.

STUNTS: (4) Not great. Bad reaction deaths from the mobsters, and it all looked really fake.

STAR POWER: (7) Sho and Kane. That’s it.

FINAL GRADE: (5) Sho has done much better than this, and while not terrible, doesn’t really do much to advance the genre nor is terribly enjoyable to watch more than once. It’s still great to watch Sho onscreen, however.

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