Enter the Ninja (1981): Breakdown by Rutledal
A westerner who has been taught in the ways of the ninja must help his friend defend his land. Retardation ensues.
This is the movie that launched the wave of ninja movies released all trough the 80s and parts of the early 90s. It also changed the face of The Cannon Group, turning them in to one of the prime providers of low budget action films in the 80s.
Since this was made at the time when Asian actors still weren’t billable at the box-office (despite Jackie Chan’s best efforts), Italian western hero Franco Nero was cast in the lead. Prior to this movie, Nero had no experience with martial arts and had to be doubled for most of the major action sequences. Unfortunately both become quite obvious. That Nero does not know martial arts shines through every time he is fighting without his ninja suit. It is also easy to tell when he is being doubled because Nero has big mustache and his double doesn’t. Yeah, it’s that bad.
The movie also features one of the most cliché-ridden, comic-book style henchmen in cinematic history. I shit you not, when I say we are talking about an overacting, short and fat dude with a German accent, a limp and a hook for a hand. A fucking hook for a fucking hand! Fuck this movie.
The story follows a man who is the first ever Caucasian ninja (aren’t they all?), even going as far as giving him a white ninja costume. However one of the more Asian ninjas doesn’t take too kindly to teaching the ways of the ninja to strangers/non-Asians. Instead of actually focusing on that plot point, the movie instead follows our white ninja hero as he goes to help his friend, who is being hassled by an oil tycoon, only to later have the two plots melt together.
The movie has all the classic elements of a ninja movie, like ridiculous sounds effects and smoke bombs. Well, all except martial arts, of which there is surprisingly little, probably due to Nero’s lack of skills in the field. It is poorly edited and at times extremely inconsistent, there are moments where the actors look baffled, as if they have no idea what is going on. Still, the movie has its moments and the score is actually pretty decent. It also helps that professional martial artist Shô Kosugi plays the evil ninja.
Overall it’s a pretty bad movie, and I think that if it hadn’t ended up launching a popular sub-genre of 80s action it would have vanished from everyone’s memory years ago. This is for hardcore fans of ninja movies only.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Franco Nero is Cole
“One man? We are afraid of one man?”
“He’s like an army. He’s like a whole army.”
“20 men? He got rid of 20 men? That is impossible!”
“Impossible or not, sir, he took care of them all.”
He’s pretty bad-ass. For starters, he has a license as a master of ninjitsu, which I’m pretty sure is hard to obtain. In a flashback he says that when the war* is over the first thing he will do is look for another war to fight in. He just can’t get enough action. He does cry when his friend dies, but quickly decides that killing is a better way to cope with grief.
*Non-defined conflict taking place in Africa
[THE BODY COUNT: 31 Real and 11 Fake Deaths]
Nero kills 26 bad guys by various ninja weapons, even beheading a guy. He’s pretty hardcore like that. The fake deaths come from the opening sequence where Cole slays down 11 ninjas, before it’s revealed that it was a training exercise and they are all alive and well. The other deaths are pretty evenly divided: 1 for Cole’s friend, 1 for the main villain, 1 for the rival ninja etc.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
Go into YouTube for a minute, plot “worst/best death scene ever” in the search monitor. Did you find a video of a guy who gets hit with a ninja star in the chest and then shrugs before falling over dead, all in unnecessary slow motion? That’s from this movie. It’s the death of the movie’s childlike villain, and since a certain henchman survives the movie, this is the movie’s most satisfying death.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
There are some gay undertones in the friendship between Cole and his alcoholic friend, but it’s never fleshed out to its full potential. A shame it is. Our hook handed henchman however has gotten it. When asked what he needs, his answer is always the same: “More men”. Still, the movie keeps a low profile.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
When he goes to visit his friend, Cole doesn’t think waiting at the gate is fit for a ninja like him so he climbs the fence, only to be met by a woman with a shotgun. Instead of trying to explain what is going on he makes sexist remarks, disarms her, cops a feel and kicks her in the ass. Honestly, he turns her around and squeezes her breast for no good reason other than to just squeeze her breast.
They then try to make a strong independent female character of the woman, his friend’s wife, Marry Ann, but it all falls to the ground when they have her sleep with Cole only to give him a reason to save her later on.
There is also the guy that who sells porn pictures from his jacket.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
At the end of the title sequence a ninja dressed in white comes in from the left, jumps up and kicks a ninja dressed in black right in the face. The only thing is, he misses the black ninja by a couple of feet. It perfectly sets up the movie, and from there it’s all downhill.
Cole: “Give Mr. Venarius a message from me.”
Henchman: “Yeah, what message?”
Cole: “I don’t like to be followed.”
Henchman: [Pulls a gun on Cole]
Cole: [Crushes his throat with a single blow] “Never mind—I’ll tell him myself.”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
When making a movie about ninjas, make sure your lead (especially if he’s supposed to actually be a ninja) knows martial arts.
[THE CHECKLIST: 12 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor” [Shô Kosugi]
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[ ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[ ] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[ ] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice