Enter The Ninja (1981)

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Enter The Ninja is the first entry into the famous ‘Ninja Trilogy’, an action trilogy of films that consists of Enter The Ninja, Revenge Of The Ninja, and Ninja III: The Domination. Although these are well known as a trilogy of films, Revenge Of The Ninja and Ninja III: The Domination aren’t sequels to Enter The Ninja, and the only things that link these three movies together are the facts that each film is about Ninjas, each film stars actual Ninpo practitioner Sho Kosugi, and each film was not Directed by 80’s Ninja schlock maker Godfrey Ho. Enter The Ninja was the film that was widely cited as being the forefather of the Ninja boom that happened to action movies in the 1980’s, inspiring such films as American Ninja, Three Ninjas, Pray For Death and, of course, Godfrey Ho’s numerous Ninja flops, two of which I have covered previously.

Enter The Ninja stars legendary Italian actor Franco Nero as the film’s main protagonist; an American man named Cole who learns the art of ninjitsu and travels to the Philippines to see an old friend, Frank Landers, but he finds that Lander’s farm is under the thumb of crooked businessman Venarious and his troupe of armed thugs. Obviously, the plot to Enter The Ninja is nothing original. The ‘skilled stranger in a desperate town’ plot thread that Enter The Ninja uses was previously used in old western and samurai movies such as A Fistful Of Dollars, Django, Yojimbo, Sholay and Seven Samurai, and it’s been done many times again and again in cinema to this day. As a result, Enter The Ninja is a very safe movie, and every plot point and every scene is very predictable, almost too predictable.

However, what sets Enter The Ninja apart from the many other cliched ‘skilled stranger in a desperate town’ movies is the fact that it feels like Enter The Ninja is very self-aware of the fact that it isn’t original or innovative, so it doesn’t take itself too seriously by embracing the nature of such a cliched plot and adding in a lot of self aware winks and comedic moments throughout the movie. A lot of the film’s elements are very silly, such as having a German villain with a hook for a hand and an overly British henchman, but Enter The Ninja makes these silly elements work because it’s a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It may have serious moments mixed in with the action, but like a Marvel superhero movie, there’s always more action and ridiculousness around the corner so nothing leaves a dark impact on the viewer.

The acting definitely helps develop the silly tone as, aside from France Nero, Sho Kosugi and Susan George, most of the actors are entertainingly bad. Christopher George (Venarious) was never a good actor. in Enter The Ninja he delivers his lines awkwardly and manages to give one of the funniest death scenes in cinematic history. Will Hare (Dollars) gives an entertaining performance as the film’s comic relief, a sleazy con merchant. Hell, even France Nero, a fantastic actor who excels at dramatic roles, manages to give a ridiculous performance as the film’s Ninja protagonist. But worst (or best) of all is Zachi Noy who plays Hook: a really dumb villain with an unconvincing German accent and a hook for a hand. Zachi’s character is the most ridiculously dumb character of them all, but Zachi Noy sells his character really well and every scene that involves Hook is really fun to watch. All in all, the acting, despite how bad it is, is strangely one of the best aspects of Enter The Ninja as it makes the film so entertaining to watch.

That being said, though, Enter The Ninja is a film that exists solely for the purpose of showcasing Ninja action: such as Ninpo martial arts and the use of many different Ninja weaponry. Thanks to Sho Kosugi, who was the film’s fight coordinator and a trained professional in both Ninpo martial arts and Ninja weaponry, and Mike Stone, original pick for Cole and the film’s stunt coordinator, the action scenes of Enter The Ninja are quite exciting to witness. The choreography isn’t the most flowing, nor the most consistent, and in some ways the Ninja action scenes of Godfrey Ho’s abominations were much better than the Ninja action scenes of Enter The Ninja, but the action scenes of Enter The Ninja are still very exciting to watch and incredibly memorable from the exciting fight scenes, to the tense sword battles and everything in between.

In the end, Enter The Ninja isn’t an amazing film. It’s cliched, badly acted, the choreography isn’t amazing, the story isn’t amazing, even the visual style isn’t anything special. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching Enter The Ninja. It’s dumb, but it’s just so enjoyable and incredibly entertaining thanks to the film’s strange tone and crazy action scenes. Enter The Ninja is far better than any of the Godfrey Ho Ninja films I’ve covered, and its definitely deserved of being a cult classic. In conclusion, I’d definitely give Enter The Ninja a firm recommendation for those interested in silly, campy action films.

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