A while ago I started this series called "Movie Wars" where I take a look at two pictures, have them duke it out, and see which one is left standing. Well, in this case, I figured it would be great to apply this to the current month (or two) where I review 80s action cinema. Also, I watched both of these pictures over a week ago and didn't really feel like doing a full review for either one.
Nostalgia is a fucking bitch. I loved both of these films when I was a kid and had not revisited them since. 9 times out of 10 when I rewatch a childhood treasure I'm disappointed. Anyway, let's take a look at the carnage, shall we?
Revenge of the Ninja (1983)
As a kid I pretty much only wanted to grow up to be one thing: A fucking ninja. I bought the magazines, I made a wooden sword in my friend's Dad's workshop, I honed my "skills" in the backyard. I was stealthy, quick, daring. I'd climb trees and sit on the top for hours, biding my time. I'd practice hiding in plain sight. Most of all though, I devoured any and all ninja films I could get my hands on. American Ninja I-II, Ninja Wars, um...not much else. Those movies were fine I suppose. American Ninja pissed me off because it was about an...um...american ninja. Michael Dudikoff was just some douchey white guy. The only real ninja, as far as I was concerned, was Sho Kosugi. This guy was good enough to be on a poster occupying prime real estate on my bedroom wall. And, he was Japanese.
To be honest, my days of being a ninja, or caring about them, are long gone. I am pretty sure I would look ridiculous if I were to put on one of those all black suits. Since I'm a white guy tradition might dictate I wear a white suit. I'd look pretty silly skulking around the city ambushing petty criminals and their bosses. I've never taken a martial arts course in my life so my ass would probably be handed to me unless I had one of those smoke bombs handy to make a speedy getaway. What kind of ninja would I be if I attacked and ran all the time. Not a very good one is the likely answer. Certainly no Sho Kosugi is the even more obvious answer.
Revenge of the Ninja is the middle film of a ninja trilogy (all three starring Kosugi). Enter the Ninja led things off and Ninja III: The Domination concluded things. It's really just a thematic trilogy though since Sho's character was decaptiated (spoiler alert!) at the end of the first one by some douchey white guy no less (Franco Nero!). My memory of Ninja III, however, is a bit more cloudy. There was a white female possessed by some evil ninja I think and then also a massacre at a police officer's funeral or some shit like that and I don't even remember how Sho Kosugi fit into the cast. If it was half as good as Revenge of the Ninja then I will say it was pretty good.
This one is fun even if it is far less than great, which puts it several notches below how I remembered it. Here's a warning to all you "kids": Do not revisit childhood masterpieces. No good can ever come from it. Anyway, the story is simple. Kosugi is living a peaceful life in Japan with his family, etc. For some reason, while he is away of course, some evil ninjas attack his little idyllic countryside home and slaughter most of his family. Kosugi arrives too late and kills off the evil assassins. He's peturbed to learn that his wife and son are dead though. Thankfully, he's got another son who survived. Also, his grandma made it through ok, but that is little consolation. Sho quickly retires from ninja-ing and moves to California (with his surviving son and grandma) to sell Dolls on the advice of his white friend with the sinister evil ninja-like name, Braden (Arthur Roberts).
Braden, as it turns out, isn't really Sho's friend and proves it by smuggling heroin into the country using Sho's dolls. Also, Braden puts on black ninja garb and conceals his eyes using a silver mask and kills the grandma after the plot is revealed. This is another clue that Braden isn't really Sho's friend. Braden also tries to kill Sho's son (ably played by Kane Kosugi) but that little guys exhibits some ninja-like qualities himself and is able to escape. The movie is one fight scene after another bridged together with scenes or minimal character development. Friends are made, friends are betrayed, friends are killed. Even the mafia gets involved. Let's face it, no one is watching this thing for the characterizations. It's all about the fights and these are terrific. Sho Kosugi deserved some of the fame bestowed upon Jackie Chan because this guy is amazing.
The scene that sold him as a legitimate martial artist was the one where some mob guys break into his gallery to steal some dolls (heroin). Kosugi refuses to give up even after having been beaten to a pulp. He's dragged by their van Indiana Jones style at one point. The stunt work was terrific. His final battle with Braden (both in ninja garb) takes place on the top of a skyscraper and is fantastic. It culminates with that old Japanese standard, arterial spray. I think this picture could have used some more of that.
I actually think, as great as Sho Kosugi is, this picture is worth watching for the performance of his son, Kane. This kid takes on an army of bullies and holds his own. He evades capture and certain death by Braden and, at one point, kicks the shit out of a sumo wrestler. He's like 3 feet tall and 40 pounds. Oh, and the movie also features the requisite boobies and was directed by Sam Firstenberg who would never be better than he is here (American Ninja and American Samurai). The only thing this picture was lacking was Steve James.
Invasion U.S.A. (1985)
I used to think this was the definitive Chuck Norris picture. Fuck man, was I wrong. This is a piece of god awful shit. I guess the definitive Norris picture has to be Braddock: Missing in Action II. The movie starts out well enough. Terrorists, from every middle eastern nation (and maybe Cuba), invade the country from the sea and start committing random acts of violence. They shoot up suburbia on Christmas eve, take out a hot dog stand, shoot up a mall, attempt to blow up a school bus full of kids. Basically, anything that is quintessentially American, these fuckers want to destroy.
Ok, I'm not really sure if they were middle eastern or not. I'm an american so, to me, all foreigners with tan looking skin look alike. I am pretty sure that their leader was some soviet douchebag played by Richard Lynch. And, Chuck Norris is in it playing ex-CIA or ex-Special Forces. He's retired and living in the everglades wrassling gator's and stuff but comes out of retirement when these guys kill his best friend. Like all 80's action heros Norris "works alone" and has a silly name like Mike Hunter or Matt Hamster. Norris slips on his blue jeans (it's about a 3 hour process), puts on his denim shirt and straps on a couple of uzis. Then he spends the rest of the picture miraculously appearing whenever the terrorists are about to shit on another american treasure like church and says things like "didn't work, huh? now it will" as he drops the bomb into the hands of some dumbfounded terrorists that were about to blow up that church and were wondering why the detonator didn't work. It didn't work because Norris cut the wires and then reattached them as the punchline to his joke.
I don't know, I used to love Chuck Norris but he lost a little bit in my eyes when he started stumping for that guy Mike Huckabee. I thought Norris was unbeatable but his guy didn't even make it past the primaries so the lustre is starting to wear off. Also, I can only take so much of people that wear american flags on their shirts, a symbol I used to admire but has since come to represent things like anti-choice and also things like evolution is for fags. I still think the guy is a pretty good fighter and a champion and stuff like that but I also wish he had a few more brain cells. I guess Bruce Lee knocked them all out. At least his tears can cure cancer. It's just too bad he never cries. Maybe that's why he is anti-stem cell. He is just waiting for the day when someone makes him cry and then he can say "look guys I can cure cancer. We can continue letting those aborted fetuses go to waste. Here are some tears I cried while watching Beaches last night. I bottled them for y'all. Also, here is some sperm free of charge. Please....take it."
Invasion U.S.A. is a relic. We'll never see another one like it. It's weird since the politics in this thing are all skewed. Here we have a typical right wing tale of one man who must stand against an invading force to protect religion and hot dogs and yet the only reason that invading force was able to make it into the country is because the current administration (also right leaning) didn't really have an eye on our own borders. What the hell am I to believe? I think vigilantism is probably the way to go. In Norris' defense, it's hard to argue that two rights can make a wrong so what the hell do I know. Politics aside, this picture blows.
Ninja star to the eye, Norris and his piece of shit movie fall to the mat. His sperm is still usable, so there is that.