In 1981, the world would be unprepared for the masterpiece that was Enter the Ninja. Released by Cannon Films, and being a Golan-Globus production you knew as soon as the title credits hit that this was going to be a good film. Even today when you see those credits, the people responsible for some of the best action films of all time like Missing in Action, Deathwish II, the American Ninja franchise, Delta Force, and more cannot help but fill you heart with joy. They hardly ever disappoint, most of the time that is. For every Missing in Action there is a Lifeforce and for every American Ninja there is an American Ninja IV. So maybe sometimes they do not always live up to the hype, but what you do get are usually some of the best solid B films ever made, usually packed with action and almost always featuring your favourite heroes from Chuck Norris to Charles Bronson to Jean Claude Van Damme.
Enter the Ninja would star Franco Nero in the lead role, one of the coolest cats to ever grace the silver screen. This was the man who starred in many a spaghetti western, who would star as Django the first time around as well as feature in dozens of other films both acclaimed and not, and this time would play a ninja. How could you not want to see this? Also starring alongside him would be Sho Kosugi who would also make an appearance in the two sequels as different characters and Susan George of Straw Dogs fame. Together, they would take this film and make it the best ninja film they could, or at least as well as could be expected. Sadly the script by Dick Desmond and Mike Stone did not help matters any as much of the dialogue was corny and a little stilted throughout the entire film. The directing by Menahem Golan, of Golan-Globus fame was fine, and it neither made the film any better, nor any worse than what we ended up with.
The story concerns a man named Cole, who also happens to be a trained ninja played by Franco Nero, who heads on over to see his buddy Frank and his new wife Mary Ann. They run a plantation but it is hard doing so when the local criminal element, who report to a man named Venarius, are harassing them daily to sell their land by scaring away the help and things of that sort. Over the course of the film, Cole proceeds to interfere in the comings and goings of both his friends and the villains, protecting one and beating up the others. Soon, criminal mastermind, Venarius hires his own ninja who also happens to be Cole’s nemesis and then the action really starts to heat up.
Nero is great in the film, in a wooden sort of way. He plays the role pretty straightforward with little emotion ever crossing his face, though there is the odd smile from time to time. His best scenes often occur with Zachi Noy who plays The Hook, one of the local crime bosses who report to Venarius. Those scenes often play for comedic relief, but also feature a good amount of action and introduce us to the obstacles that Cole must overcome, namely a lot of thugs. The choreography could have been a bit better as there are times when you can see that the blows do not land where they are supposed to and the sound effects for some of the weapons, such as the ninja stars, is atrocious. The scene where Cole is practicing with the nunchucks is pure B movie schlock and cannot look any more ridiculous, but it adds to the picture as only a scene like this could. You have to have a training scene at some point to show off the heroes skills otherwise there would be no way to tell that he is serious about his craft.
Sho Kosugi was a good choice for a villain, though he had little to do except fight and even less to say. Susan George was fairly decent as the female lead. There were times when she seemed to have spent just a little too much time in the sun as she looked really tan at times and much lighter in others. Christopher George played Venarius and was so over-the-top in his performance he could have been a villain on Scooby-Doo or some other children’s show. The final battle between Kosugi’s character Hasegawa and Cole is one of the highlights of the film and ends the movie with a nice action-packed and exciting battle.
So not every card fell into place for this film, but when you watch a Golan-Globus film, or any B film, you cannot expect them to. Maybe the dialogue was not the best, or the directing or the acting, or anything really. All of it could have been improved in some way or another. But Franco Nero’s very presence is electrifying the first time you see him on screen. The man is danger and attitude and has a do-not-mess-with-me persona that makes you want to keep tuned. And overall, the film was fun. Pure action matinee fun, but enjoyable and exciting all the same. Definitely worth your time if you like any of the actors featured within or if you like ninjas. There are a lot of ninjas.