Archive for the Sho Kosugi Category

Review: Ninja Assassin (2009)

Posted in Rain, Rick Yune, Sho Kosugi with tags , on January 18, 2019 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Rain, Naomie Harris, Sung Kang, Sho Kosugi, Rick Yune

Fight Choreography by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch

Directed by James McTeigue

In 2009, hot off the the Matrix Trilogy, the Wachowskis decided to apply their aesthetic to the world of ninjas, that old reliable world of the 80’s, and with a new star in South Korean pop singer Rain, they set out to redefine what a ninja movie could be, with a big budget and the latest in special effects…

The film opens with an attack on a local street gang, killed by a single ninja. Later we meet Raizo at a laundromat, who is immediately attacked by an assassin from a local clan, but he wins the battle. Meanwhile, a Europol investigator named Mika (Harris)starts to close in on the ninja clan. Soon Raizo and Mika meet, with Raizo thwarting his own clan in their attempted assassinations, and soon they are out to end his former clan once and for all.

Newcomer Rain does a fairly decent job as Raizo, but doesn’t really imbue the film with the star charisma it needs. Naomie Harris does an admirable job, but the two actors together don’t share any chemistry onscreen, and it hurts evert scene they are in together. Rick Yune isn’t in the film enough to really make an impression, so he is wasted here. Sho Kosugi as Lord Ozunu does standout more than the rest, and gives the film that martial arts “legitimacy” but just like Rick Yune he’s barely in the film enough to get a true sense of his villainy.

The film moves at a brisk pace, and there are problems with this. We never get to truly know Raizo except through flashbacks that don’t allow the audience to really feel anything for him or his plight. In this instance I believe the flashbacks hindered the film. The better choice is to either go linear to tell the story, or just let Raizo’s past be a mystery as we follow Mika on his adventure, with only hints as to the reason why he’s helping her.

So much CGI…too much, in fact. These ninjas look like something a superhero should fight, not someone in the real world regardless of skill. CGI throwing stars flash out like machine gun fire. CGI blood and guts, even CGI ninja movements. Just too much.

The first big fight scene..happens in the dark. No way to see how good the fight choreography is because I couldn’t make out what was happening. This is even more maddening during the Europol Building siege, and some parts are cool, but the camerawork is all over the place, with a deadly combo of quick cuts and shots that are zoomed in too close to truly see the action. It actually gets better when the fight goes into the street, with Raizo avoiding ninjas as well as cars, but it gets ridiculous when ninjas get hit with cars and just keep truckin’ along. The only fight with any real excitement, at least for me was the final fight with Sho Kosugi vs Rain. The background fire and scene framing reminded me of a video game, and the fight was good until Raizo went all Naruto in the fight, displaying a skill the movie had barely hinted at before. It was a silly way to end the fight, even if it was meant as a crowd-pleasing moment.

I get what they were trying to do with this film. They were trying to merge ninja films with modern day special effects, trying to make the ninjas as mystical as they pretended to be to the peasants in ancient Japan, but none of it really works.

Funny enough, there was another ninja movie that came out that year. It probably cost about the same amount of the craft services in this film but is a far superior ninja movie. That would be Ninja, with Scott Adkins…

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 5

A middling film that overloads itself with special effects with a story and hero that aren’t very interesting, and Sho Kosugi is truly wasted here in what was a misfire of a film. 

 

 

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Kiai-Kick’s Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Arrow Video!

Posted in Sho Kosugi with tags , on December 15, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

arrow

Okay, so Arrow is a company with a LOT of old school films, some box sets and many more items of interest for B and C movie lovers of all kind, but there are two Blu Ray films I just gotta point out revolving around one person: Sho Kosugi.

Pray For Death

pray for death

Pray for Death is one of my favorite films of his, and when you add in a ninja bicycle, you’ve struck gold! You can read my review of the film here, but to see it in a pristine blu-ray format is an added bonus, with some pretty decent extras, and Arrow has it!

Bonus Materials

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM
  • R-rated and Unrated Versions
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new interview with star Sho Kosugi
  • Archive interview and Ninjutsu demonstration with Kosugi from the film’s New York premiere
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

Rage Of Honor

rageofhonor4229

Yeah. More Sho Kosugi here, but not nearly as good as Enter the Ninja or Pray for Death. It has its moments, but it’s still a very, very silly movie. I’ll be reviewing it soon, but if you need that extra Sho Kosugi fix, or are just a completist, then I can recommend this blu ray, but as a movie? A double feature with Miami Connection along with Bourbon, Vodka and pizza will make one hell of a movie night!

Bonus Materials:
– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM
– Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
– Sho and Tell Part 2: The Domination – brand new interview with star Sho Kosugi on Rage of Honor and the later stages of his film career
– Sho Kosugi Trailer Gallery: Enter the Ninja (1981), Revenge of the Ninja (1983), Pray for Death (1985) and Rage of Honor (1987)
– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

 

Next up: Of course I’ve saved the Best for Last!

Arrow Video has you covered! Pray For Death! Sho Kosugi! Blu-Ray!

Posted in Kane Kosugi, Sho Kosugi on June 6, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

PFD

It’s insane to think that there was any chance that Sho Kosugi’s Cannon films would come to Blu-Ray, but thanks to Arrow Video it’s a reality! The first film up is Pray for Death, and you can read my review of that film here. The Blu-Ray transfer is as good as you could hope, and there is both an R-rated and Unrated version. I won’t give much away about the unrated version, but I’ll say that the death of Saito’s wife is far more brutal here than in the original, and we get to see Kane making the Ninja Bicycle! If you haven’t seen this film, and don’t know what I’m talking about, get thee out and see it, preferably in this format! Sho has never looked so good on film, and the extras contain an interview with the man himself, and his stories about how he came to be with Cannon Films make this an instant get. Here are some of the other extras: (I wasn’t given a version with all of the extras at this time)

Bonus Materials

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM
  • R-rated and Unrated Versions
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new interview with star Sho Kosugi
  • Archive interview and Ninjutsu demonstration with Kosugi from the film’s New York premiere
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

That reversible sleeve rocks! This is out now, so go get it, and see one of the gems of Cannon Films, and one of the films that started the ninja craze of the 80’s! Now we just need American Ninja in Blu…

PFD1

Review: Enter The Ninja (1981)

Posted in Mike Stone, Sho Kosugi on July 27, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

Enter-the-Ninja

Starring Franco Nero, Sho Kosugi, Susan George, Christopher George

Fight Choreography by Mike Stone

Directed By Menahem Golan

God Bless Cannon Films.

There, I said it with no embarrassment. I feel so sad for those who weren’t old enough to bask in the glory of Golan-Globus, for whom the Ninja films of the 80’s wouldn’t have been half as fun as they were, as well as other 80’s creations (like Chuck Norris films). Here we get a ninja film that dares to use the “Enter The…” in its title, which now somehow means it’s the best of its kind EVER. Now if the best of its kind means an Italian-actor-who-knows-no-martial-arts-pretends-to -be-a-ninja-master-for-two-hours-and-features-the-funniest-death-scene-of-a-villain-in-the- history-of-cinema then well, yeah, it is the best of the genre.

Enter-the-Ninja2

The film opens as we meet Cole, a Vietnam war vet (they all had to be in the 80’s) who has just finished his ninja Training in the Philippines, in the most ludicrous testing scene ever, where he runs through and it looks as if he’s killed like a dozen guys (even giving a dude a throwing star to the face! To the Face!) and then, after testing is done, those very same dudes walk back in like “it’s nothing. He never really hurt us. That blood? Nah, it was fake. Has anyone seen Yoshi?”. During his celebration dinner, Hasagawa (Kosugi) has to bitch out and point out that yes, somewhere in the film he’s going to be a BAD GUY. Cole leaves the dojo to visit his friend, Frank Landers, a fellow war veteran who is having problems with a local businessman named Venarius. who won’t take no for an answer, and a series of escalating attacks forces Cole to take up his ninja training in order to end once and for all, which brings him to a final confrontation with Hasagawa…

Enter-the-Ninja3

This…is a supremely stupid movie. Terrible acting, even worse martial arts. Having said that, it’s quite a lot of fun. Cole is at one point a hero and an asshole, as midway through the film he sleeps with his best friend’s wife with absolutely no remorse or regret whatsoever! Even funnier is, without a doubt, one of the funniest death scenes in the history of modern cinema, as Venarius dies by throwing star in one of the, well, you gotta watch this for yourself:

Venarius’ man servant is also one of my favorite characters. Respectful to the very end, he’s so respectful and British even the good guys can’t bring themselves to hurt him! Sho Kosugi is, well, Sho Kosugi, who does what he does best, and is the only person who doesn’t completely embarrass himself. The fight scenes are good, at least when the stuntman for Franco Nero kicks in and does his work. Everything else looks Adam West/William Shatner bad. But it’s really so bad it’s funny.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

Franco Nero headlines a film that encapsulates everything that Cannon Films represents: preposterous stories, ridiculous but fun action, and terrible acting. And Sho Kosugi being awesome.

Review: Blind Fury (1990)

Posted in Reviews, Sho Kosugi with tags , , , on February 3, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Rutger Hauer, Sho Kosugi, Meg Foster, Terry O’Quinn,

Noble Willingham, Randall (Tex) Cobb

Sword Fight Choreography by Stephen Lambert

Directed by Philip Noyce

Someone in Hollywood thought that the Japanese had a pretty good thing going with all of those Zatoichi films that have been a staple of Japanese cinema for years, and wondered how such a character would be received in the good old USA. Now for something like this to be successful would require an actor who can actually act blind and yet display a range of emotions and look badass dicing people up with a cane sword. And by people I’m referring to Texans. Luckily they found Roy Batty himself, the great Rutger Hauer (whose newest film, Hobo With A Shotgun, is currently making its way around the indie circuit.)

The film opens during the Vietnam War, the place from which all 80’s action heroes come from, and we meet Nick Parker, crawling through the mud, newly blind thanks to a Vietcong mortar shell. Nick is taken in by local villagers, and soon they decide the best way to help him deal with his blindness is to teach him kendo and turn him into a badass.

We fast forward 20 years, and we find Nick back in the states heading toward Miami, Florida to visit his good friend and fellow soldier (the one he was blinded trying to help) Frank Deveraeux (O’Quinn, yes, the dude from Lost) not knowing that Frank was not only divorced and moved from the address Nick has, but is in Vegas threatened with his life by a greedy casino mogul MacCready, who is so rich he doesn’t need a first name. Or maybe that was his first name? Either way he’ll need one soon since he’s run out of cash, and needs Frank, a chemist, to develop designer drugs for him. If MacCready actually knew his shit he could have just gone to the local college and hired some chemistry majors and paid them in pizzas and beer. No need to break the law that far. But of course in this film he’s a Texan, so breaking the law is a norm.

Anyway, Nick arrives at Frank’s old house and meets his ex-wife, Lynn, played by the always creepy Meg Foster (I’ll bet she’s a nice lady and all, and she is pretty, but the red hair along with the bright gray eyes…just gives me the hebbie -jebbies) and their 10 year old son Billy. Lynn informs Nick that Frank is gone, and soon the police show up, but they are actually MacCready’s men led by Slag (Cobb) a cigar-smoking douche who knocks out Billy and blows Lynn away with a shotgun. Nick takes action in a fast but fun scene where he introduces the fake cops to the exact opposite of life, but Slag gets away. Nick takes Billy away from there, and together they travel cross country to save Frank, but little does Nick know that there is a great challenger waiting for him at the finish line…

This a good, light-hearted action film despite the violence, which is mostly bloodless. Hauer plays Nick as a carefree dude. One of the worst things that could happen already has, so he doesn’t sweat too many things, and carries an air of confidence the entire film, even when he loses his cane sword. He’s a man who is humble and acquites himself as such, but dick around with him and you can meet his cane, or sword, or both. The rest of the acting is pretty shoddy although Noble Willingham makes a good Texas douchebag (he’ll reprise a similar role years later as the main baddie in The Last Boy Scout). Which, before I go any further, I have to take a bit of offense at the one thing I disliked about this film:

Texans are gun-totting inbred half-brained douchebags.

Which is entirely untrue as I’ve lived here for some twenty-plus years. That is not the way we are.

Texas are actually gun-totting, knifestabbing, sword-chopping, karate and kung-fu fighting smart-with-a-twang people who will greet anyone they see with a hello or howdy. Take our newest Texas Ranger and national mascot:

See? Decent fellow. Good guy. Invincible (Except when he meets Bruce Lee) Keep Slaughter in San Francisco in mind. If you ever come to Texas, particularly Austin, you’ll have a good time, and no one will try to shoot you and cackle like a pack of hyenas over your prone body. Unless you’re too close to the border to Mexico. Then you are on your own.

Anyway, the grand finale, involving dispatching dozens of Texans, we get the fight between Rutger Hauer and the greatness, Sho Kosugi. I wished this had been the quality of the fights the entire film, but for what it was was great. I don’t how much of the sword fight was Hauer and what was his stuntman, but a great job was done here. Sho brought a lot of menace to a short role, and their fight was a great swordfight, if shorter than I wanted it. Not Brett Ratner short, but still.

Blind Fury has a lot of fun moments courtesy of Rutger Hauer, and his showdown with Sho Kosugi is fast-paced and fun. The scene in the cornfield was quite a bit of fun as well. Too bad they never continued Nick’s story. It could have been our Zatoichi. Can we buy Rutger a sequel? C’mon Hollywood! If you can make a Yogi Bear movie…

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) There is actually a lot here, and it’s pretty fast paced, but a little too short, but then again, for sword fighting that’s appropriate. Lambert does a good job of staging the fights, and Noyce shoots it well.

STUNTWORK: (6) It looks like these guys did their homework, reacting just like you would see in a Japanese samurai film. The didn’t need to do too much in the sense of tossing themselves around, but did the job from an acting standpoint.

STAR POWER: (8) Rutger Hauer, Sho Kosugi and directed by Philip Noyce,who would go on to direct and produce many of the Jack Ryan films.

FINAL GRADE: (7) A fun and enjoyable B-movie ode to Zatoichi. Not a great fight film, but some decent Japanese swordplay for an American film.


Review: Pray For Death (1985)

Posted in Kane Kosugi, Reviews, Sho Kosugi with tags , , , on December 27, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

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.