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The Ninja Trilogy is pure B-Movie schlock, a stable series from Cannon Films and it has now earn a Blu-ray re-release thanks to Eureka Entertainment.
The Ninja Trilogy contains three unrelated movies, Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja and Ninja III: Domination – the only things connecting them being that they all feature actor Sho Kosugi and all of them are about ninjas. They can be watched independently from each other.
Enter the Ninja follows Cole (Franco Nero), an American who masters ninjustu and goes to the Philippines to help his friend (Alex Courtney) defend his land from being taken over by a ruthless executive. Revenge of the Ninja follows Cho (Kosugi), a Japanese man who moves to America with his mother and young son after the rest of his family are murdered and finds out he was unwittingly a part of a drug smuggling operation. Ninja III: Domination is the most bizarre by having a more supernatural approach about an American woman, Christie (Lucinda Dickey) who gets possessed by an evil ninja and uses her body to get revenge against the cops who killed him.
The Ninja Trilogy was produced by Cannon Films, a company that was famous in the 80s for mostly releasing low-budget actioners and has developed a cult audience because of it. The movies in the trilogy are not good – the production values are poor and the scripting and acting are even worse. The best of the trio is Revenge of the Ninja – having the best plot, even if it’s a generic drug trafficking/revenge storyline and works better as an action movie. The opening of Revenge of the Ninja is darker, it has a family being massacred, a child getting a shuriken thrown at his head and it raises the stakes – the first opened with a training sequence which was weightless. The action sequences in Revenge of the Ninja were of a better quality and more frequent than in the other two movies – they are better choreographed and more inventive like a sequence where Cho fights a number of thugs from the drug gang and hangs onto their vans as they try to get away. Despite the good action there are equally stupid moments like an adult woman fighting and losing to a young boy and the end on such a lackluster note that it felt like the filmmakers went ‘sod it. ‘
Enter the Ninja was weakest movie on an action front – many of the actors and extras clearly were not fight trained. It was very underwhelming and does not even match the levels of Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal, let alone the greats of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Only the final fight between Cole and Kosugi’s character was decent and that is being charitable. Ninja III: Domination is clearly the dumbest of the three as it tries to do an action version of The Exorcist. It goes into so bad its good territory because of its ridiculous plot and ultra-cheap special effects. Ninja III: Domination is made more humorous because it has a mostly serious tone.
All three movies are unashamedly cheesy. They are products of their time having an obsession with ninja clichés (hardly a surprise), playing up comedy elements to the point of having ‘humorous’ music, a woman getting boiled alive into a hot tub and Ninja III: Domination going fully camp with a Footloose like heroine. These moments range from being enduringly goofy to outrageously stupid. You can laugh at them either way. The movies are a product of their time, from the synthesized and stereotypical Japanese scores, the 80s pop music, the cheap special effects and the obsession on ninjas and all things Japanese. The trilogy will give people who grew up on 80s B-Movies a nostalgia trip.
The acting is subpar for the most part. Constantine Gregory as Mr Parker in Enter the Ninja was one of the most memorial performances as Mr Parker, an over-the-top English henchman who is able to insult and putdown underlings for his boss and the actor was having fun with the role. Sho Kosugi became a cult actor in the martial arts scene, to the point that his casting as the villain in Ninja Assassin was a homage to his Ninja Trilogy roles.
The movies in The Ninja Trilogy are far from being good – Revenge of the Ninja is the most competently made on a dramatic and technical level. Fans of B-Movies will enjoy this set of movies and Ninja III: Domination was so perplexing that it has to be marvelled. But the trilogy has little to offer beyond its niche audience.
Special Features: All three movies come with a commentary along with the trailers. Revenge of the Ninja also has an introduction from its director Sam Firstenberg.