The Octagon came first, but Enter the Ninja usually gets the credit for truly (jump)kickstarting the '80’s ninja craze. Or maybe people just think that because of its title. Whatever. At least it was smart enough to know that when you make a movie all about ninjas, you should have the word “Ninja” in the fucking title. Seriously, "The Octagon" has to be the worst name for a ninja movie, ever. But fuck that, this review is about Enter the Ninja (my review of The Octagon can be read here).
Enter the Ninja is the first in a trilogy of movies, followed by Revenge of the Ninja, and Ninja III: The Domination. The movies in this “Ninja Trilogy” share absolutely no plot continuity, but they’re all ninja movies starring Sho Kasugi and were produced by the same company, so good enough. In fact, this company, Cannon Films, then went on to produce the American Ninja franchise, so Cannon is basically the king of ‘80s ninja films.
Enter the Ninja features Franco Nero (star of the original Django spaghetti western) as a good guy white ninja. White, as in, he’s a white dude, but also he wears a stark white ninja outfit, Storm Shadow style.
At first I thought that seemed like a dumbass color for a ninja outfit (unless you’re in a tundra or something, which he’s not--the movie takes place in a fucking Filipino jungle), but then I realized that it just shows how badass of a ninja he is. He’s so goddamn confident in his ability to ninja the fuck outta anyone, that he wears a bright-ass ninja suit in order to challenge himself. It’s just like playing a game on the hardest difficulty.
Sho Kosugi (who fancies himself a real life ninja, and thus serves as a ninja expert in all these movies) plays the bad guy ninja clad in black.
The rest of the ninja clan all have to be maroon ninjas, I guess so that Black Ninja and White Ninja can feel all special.
Warning: Lots of spoilers ahead.
As soon as this movie starts, it gets right to some hardcore ninja action. The first scene is a long sequence of White Ninja going through a jungle, slicing up a bunch of other ninjas to prove that he’s the extreme badass ninja, or something. It ends with him bowing to his kindly old sensei, and then promptly decapitating him.
Psyche! Turns out it was just a prop sensei. Which we learn when the real sensei walks into the dojo holding the prop replica of his head. Why this is done is never explained.
It’s then revealed that this opening sequence was actually the final test for White Ninja to become accepted as a true member of the ninja family. I can only assume that the ninja prop department must work around the clock to create these life-like depictions of the sensei (that can even blink and bow!) so that every ninja that completes the final trial can have the pleasure of cutting the sensei’s head off. And what about all the maroon ninjas that were killed by White Ninja during the trial? If, in order to train a single new ninja for your clan, he needs to kill a dozen or so of your fellow ninja clan members, you might want to rethink your dumbass recruitment method.
So White Ninja has passed this fucked up test and has proven to be a “true” ninja. They celebrate with a ninja tea party, but Black Ninja is pissed because there’s no way a white dude like Django can be a true ninja. Just look at the way he dresses:
And then the movie kind of forgets it’s supposed to be a ninja movie and instead becomes something more like an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. Django puts away his white ninja outfit and goes to the Philippines to stay with an old war buddy. This goofy fucker:
It turns out War Buddy now owns a nice house that a local evil CEO is trying to force him to sell. War Buddy also has a drinking problem and is married to the blonde chick from Staw Dogs, who continues to make the awesome fashion choice of never wearing a bra. Django wastes no time in copping a feel on her, using his ninja molestation technique.
War Buddy doesn’t want to sell his house, so Evil CEO sends his goons to convince him. Goons led by this fat pompous asshole with a hookhand and a bowtie:
Too bad for the goons that War Buddy has a fucking ninja staying with him. Django even goes the extra mile and gives War Buddy’s wife a stealthy ninja dicking, since poor alcoholic War Buddy is having trouble getting it up. What a guy!
Oh yeah, and Django teams up with a local old man peddler of smut and crosses, played by the same guy who portrayed my all-time favorite cinematic grandpa in Silent Night, Deadly Night.
Anyway, so the goons get their asses kicked by Django and Smut Peddler, but Evil CEO is still determined to buy War Buddy’s house because he thinks there might be oil under it. Since only a ninja can kill a ninja (a fact firmly established later in this trilogy), Evil CEO sends his right-hand-man to Japan to buy a ninja of his own. Of course he ends up buying Black Ninja, because who the fuck would buy a maroon ninja?
Now, I just want to say that the bad guys really make this movie. Hookhand, the Evil CEO, and the CEO's prim and proper Right-Hand-Man are all colorful over-the-top characters that would fit right in among classic Bond villians. The Evil CEO in particular is so delightfully hammy in every one of his scenes.
So Black Ninja arrives, promptly kills War Buddy, and kidnaps Bra-Hating Blonde, forcing Django to finally break out his white ninja costume and finally return this to a full-blown ninja movie. White Ninja then fucks up Evil CEO and his goons, and the two ninjas have an arena duel to the death in order to prove which is the superior ninja color.
White Ninja wins, of course, saving Bra-Hating Blonde. But White Ninja isn’t ready to settle down and he finally looks away from Bra-Hating Blonde’s tits long enough to see that she’s gotten a bit rougher in the face since her Straw Dogs heyday.
So he ditches the poor widow and heads to the airport to go do ninja things elsewhere. And then he looks right at the camera and winks at you.
He winks into your soul. And causes your soul to grow a mustache. Go ahead, try to prove me wrong.
Ninja Factor: It begins and ends with awesome ninja action. The middle of the movie kind of forgets it’s a ninja movie, but you do get to see a scene of a shirtless Franco Nero pretending he knows how to use nunchucks.
Satan Factor: Well, there are maroon ninjas. Satan might be kind of maroon, right?
Boob Factor: We get a somewhat busty blonde who never wears a bra, but we never actually see her topless (Staw Dogs deleivers on that front). There’s also a quick glimpse of some topless photos that Smut Peddler is, uh, peddling.
Slow-Motion CEO Shrugging As He Dies Factor: Top marks for this. One of my favorite movie deaths.
80s Factor: It has that early-'80s-lingering-70’s feel, but I’d say it has a stronger '80s factor than The Octogon.
Overall Rating: 3 pentastars out of five. It’s basically an okay movie that has occasional awesome moments.