You know, every so often in life, suddenly the illusions that block our paths are cleared, and we see through all the lies, the marketing, the reality shows, the drama, the static cling, and have that one, single, shining moment of CLARITY. And in that moment, this time, I was forced to take a good, hard, honest look at myself--as I AM, not as I wish I could be--and steadfastly say to myself: "What the fuck?! I need to watch more Franco Nero movies!"
Franco Nero, as surely you know, is the steely-eyed Italian stallion of the mustachioed persuasion who has graced such movies as Hitch Hike and Shark Hunter. Now if you follow this site regularly, you will recall that in the review of Shark Hunter we discussed and defined the vicissitudes of the POWER STACHE, as opposed to the simple porn stache or ironic hipster stache (and sorry hipsters, there is no such thing as power stubble). I will refer you to that discussion for further research. The point is that Nero here (and in Hitch Hike) is indeed calling on the awesome force of his power stache, perhaps more so than ever before.
So we have the credits, showing a man in a black ninja costume doing all sorts of whoosh-whoosh moves. We see that this movie is in high-quality pillar-box format (the black lines up the sides of your screen are normal for this format) and we discover, to our not-quite shock, that this movie will indeed feature, you guessed it: Susan "The Teeth" George (please refer to my groundbreaking paper Frosted Lipstick, Shattered Lives: The Grim Inevitability of Susan George). I suppose it was inevitable that George and Nero would fuse their thespic talents. The credits go on to inform us that this is a part of the oeuvre of Menahem Golan, auteur who brought us The Apple! Finally at the end of the credits, a ninja in white comes in, does a big flying kick, quite visibly missing the face of the black ninja by 6-8 inches, and causing him to go flying. Step into Enter the Ninja!
Right away we are thrust into the action as this white ninja runs through the jungle, pursued by ninjas in red and black. You will notice that this jungle features smoldering foliage that imparts the whole place with an eerie mist. You will also sense the visible presence of the Power Stache from beneath the white ninja facegear. He goes along, killing numerous ninjas, and goes along, and goes along, til you are like "Jesus! How long is this going to go on?" He finally makes his way to the big compound, where he greets the elderly jujitsu master or whoever, and whacks his head off! He goes inside and kneels at the shrine, only to have the jujitsu master come in--why, I thought he was just killed!--and all the other ninjas come in, and remove their protective gear. They weren't killed at all--it was all a training exercise! Please disregard the fact that you clearly saw some of them die with throwing stars implanted in their skulls, etc. That was all an ILLUSION. Anyway, Nero, as Cole, is now a ninja! He's completed his training! But this other ninja, and actually Japanese one, says that Cole is no ninja! He's just a pretender! And if you suspect that this very ninja is going to show up later and prove to us all who the real ninja is, well, you were paying attention in kindergarten.
So Cole goes to visit his friend Frank in Manila, where he owns a big plantation that grows something or other. Frank is married to Susan George as Mary Ann, spunky lass who greets Cole with a shotgun. If you suspect, even at this point, that Frank is marked for death so that Susan and Franco can get their charms together, well, you know what I said about kindergarten. By now we've had time to notice that Nero's dubbed English voice is QUITE chill, making his sound completely uninvolved in anything. Turns out the are thugs trying to make Frank sell his land, which he would totally do, except that Mary Ann loves it, so he refuses to sell for her. Given the portrayal of Mary Ann, I think he could totally sell and just buy her a kitten, and she'd forget the whole place in a heartbeat. Anyway, on a trip into town, they see that this dude with a hook for a hand, known as "The Hook," is shaking down a shopowner.
Well, this whole situation is driving Frank to drink. And even though he's doing all this for Mary Ann, his drinking is making him an unkempt, unshaven man she can't respect, and causing her to harp and nag. The Hook's pressure has caused all the workers to leave, and Mary Ann goes into town to recruit more, only to find her hooky pal right there, and precipitating another fight (there has already been one) between Cole and Hook's henchmen. We soon discover that The Hook isn't on his own, he's just the emissary of The Man, and The Man in this case is Christopher George, familiar face from such classic entertainments as Grizzly and Day of the Animals. He is no relation to Susan, but is, curiously, the uncle of Vanna White!
George is Mr. Venarius, who resides in the penthouse of a high-rise that had the desks of his workers arrayed around a swimming pool that sometimes features a "living mobile" of female models doing synchronized movements. Turns out he wants Frank's land because he knows there's oil underneath. Hook comes to him and asks for more men, who are in turn handily defeated by Cole, and then gets fired, with Cole thinking if he wants something done right, he'll have to do it himself. In here we have the second of two real cockfights. Meanwhile, Frank is explaining to Cole that Mary Ann wants hot cock all the time, but he can't get it up for her anymore. We can see Cole going "Hmmmm," which doesn't seem like the thing an honorable best friend would do, nor does giving it to Mary Ann when she steals into his bedroom in a sheer nightie that evening. And come on, if I'm watching a sleazy thriller with Franco Nero, I want more than a light turned out and speedy cut-away from my sex scene. Hello, why do they think we're watching this? For the STORY?
SPOILERS > > >
After Cole defeats about 20 of Venarius' henchmen, they realize that he's a ninja, and they'll need to get a ninja of their own. Three guesses which ninja they're going to end up with. Venarius' men travel to Japan, where they tell the sensei that their cause is a noble one, they need a ninja to clean up the area so kids can go to schools, and he sends Hasagawa, the very one who doubted that Cole is a real ninja earlier. He comes to Manila, and on the very night when Cole is away, sneaking into Venarius' office and rifling through his drawers, which you'll notice are completely empty, except for one book, from which Cole immediately deduces that Venarius wants the property for oil. Meanwhile Hasagawa is invading Frank's home, killing Frank (we knew this was coming), tying Mary Ann up outside, and burning down the village. When Cole discovers this, Nero is called upon to do some emoting, which he handles adequately.
Well, now it's ON, and Cole gets dressed up in his white ninja outfit (which unfortunately means covering his sweet stache, but then again, he needs to protect his power center), and steals into Venarius' tower, killing numerous guards along the way. Once at the top, he is brought to Venarius, who is in a giant ninja arena just for the purpose. The editing has made you think "So wait, he just happens to have a ninja arena in his penthouse for just such a purpose?" but actually no, it's across town. Cole gets there and does his thing where he steals around like a ghost, killing all the henchmen.
Soon it's down to Venarius, who is cocky right to the end, when he receives a throwing star right in the heart. Then--Enter the Ninja! Hasagawa comes in, and they both get in the ring, although you know that, despite their differences, if Cole would only explain that Hasagawa was duped, and his quest is not an honorable one, the whole thing would be called off. But that wouldn't make for a very good ending, would it? So they fight, blah, blah, and I'm sure you're not going to believe this, but Cole wins. Hasagawa asks to die honorably (oh I see, NOW you care about honor), and Cole obliges by lopping off his head.
So now you think, Okay, Frank is out of the way, and Cole and Mary Ann can be a happy couple without Cole having to be an evil homewrecker (worse than he actually is, I mean), but no--this man cannot be tamed, or owned, or domesticated, or whatever. He's gotta ramble. He is but a wanderer upon this Earth. So he leaves Mary Ann on the porch, where she will tend the plantation herself, and he goes a wandering, throwing us a playful wink below the final credit. That's our ninja!
< < < SPOILERS END
Well, if you expect a crappy, low-rent ninja movie, that's exactly what you'll get. Would I have watched this if it didn't feature our power-stached pal? No. And does it offer anything to anyone who doesn't want to ogle Nero? Not really. It's not fun and goofy and over-the-top enough to offer much to the casual viewer of terrible films, and remains just boringly mediocre. I was amused by watching Nero and his various open-shirted outfits, but if you didn't have that, there's no real reason to watch this. Go Nero, or go home, that's what I say.
If you want to see Franco Nero, and witness the might of the power stache. Other than that, there's no real reason, although it won't kill you.