Pray for Death (1985)
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* *1/2 out of 4-(Pretty good)
Unfortunately, he runs into gangsters that thought he stole a necklace from them. His family is in danger, and he reverts to his true calling - a ninja - to get justice.
Shô Kosugi gives us a great martial arts/revenge flick. His acting isn't the greatest, but his fists speak loudly.
He warned them, and now, they will pray for death.
Gangsters, crooked cops, and the most dangerous man in California are no match. Even the kid (Kane Kosugi) is dangerous with nun-chucks and darts.
They had to really stretch credulity at the end as he fought James Booth. He sliced thought a dozen men, but they stretched this battle out.
The plot (of sorts) more or less resembles exactly that of Kosugi's earlier, superior 'Revenge Of The Ninja'.
Similarly (and infuriatingly!!!) just as in the aforementioned film, Sho is yet again incredibly reluctant to get into his full ninja gear and whoop ass even after repeated attempts on his families life by the movies villains.
However, inevitably and true to that staple cliché in these types of films, at least one of his family MUST be killed off thus prompting our hero to swear the obligatory oath of revenge. The bad news is that it takes until well over the hour mark before our man Sho actually gets his full ninja act together to get stuck in proper.
Still, to be fair, the resulting action makes it worth the long wait and the villains invariably buy it in style at Sho's deadly hands and feet.
The climatic battle between Sho's character and the evil (but ridiculously named) Limehouse Willy (played by none other than James Booth!) proves to be surprisingly evenly matched (a chainsaw being ostensibly a weapon that ninja are not specifically trained to defend against) but of course, such a repulsive low down, low life miscreant can only meet a suitably grisly end here and Sho certainly makes sure that he does!
Whilst this isn't my personal favourite of Sho's movies, it's still a fairly enjoyable romp. If you're at all into the 80's ninja film craze then you could do a lot worse than to check this out.
After all, nobody embodies the ninja better on screen than Sho does.
The cast is certainly up to the task. Kosugi has an amazing ability to go from friendly, mild-mannered businessman to vengeful human weapon with a snap of the fingers. James Booth (who also wrote the screenplay) is quite good as the sadistic lead henchman Limehouse, and veteran character actors Parley Baer and Norman Burton help round out a cast that's much better than we've come to expect from films of this genre.
With a few tweaks this could've been on the level with Kosugi classics such as 'Revenge of the Ninja' and 'Ninja III: The Domination'. As it is, it's a second rate shrug of a chop-socky revenge flick.
Watching "Pray For Death" today was somewhat of a slap to the face with an ice cold dead fish. The movie was downright ludicrous. The storyline was as simple as it could get; a Japanese family moves to the USA to start a fresh new life, setting up a business in a fairly rundown and bad neighborhood. Yeah, what could or would possibly go wrong there? Then when the father's son is hospitalized and his wife murdered, everything falls apart and he brings out his ancient ninja heritage to wreck vengeance on the perpetrators.
Sure, this was entertaining back in the mid 1980s, but today, no, not so much. The storyline was so stupid that it was almost bordering on being insulting to the intelligence of the audience.
And as for ninja action, well then there wasn't really all that much of it. It was in the beginning and end of the movie, so you could essentially skip the middle part of the movie and still be up to speed with the storyline. And as for the ninja, well Shô Kosugi wearing an abysmal fake metal helmet on his ninja outfit and a nylon sheet covering his mouth was just a bit too tacky - even for a mid 1980s ninja movie.
Sure Shô Kosugi might have been a great martial artist back in the day and won a heap of competitions, but that doesn't really mean that he has talent on the screen. Let's just say that I wasn't particularly impressed with what I saw in "Pray For Death".
Was this an entertaining ninja movie? No, not really. I will actually say that the likes of Michael Dudikoff's "American Ninja" movies were better than this. Is this a movie that I will return to watch again? No, definitely not. Is it worth the time, effort or money? No.
Director Gordon Hessler had a great run going into the 1970s, working with Vincent Price, AIP and all those talented folks. Look at this three film run: "The Oblong Box" (1969), "Scream and Scream Again" (1970) and "Cry of the Banshee" (1970). Unfortunately, it seems to have been downhill after that, or at the very least, he was behind films that did not quite get the attention of these three.
Then comes 1985, where we have this unusual gem. A Japanese ninja film, set in America and directed by a Brit. It is quite an unusual blend, something you might expect from Cannon. Or perhaps Transworld, which would be correct.
This sort of over-the-top movie is despised by most critics (with good reason), but embraced by those in the horror and cult community. Joe Bob Briggs praised star Sho Kosugi as "the best kung fu man since Bruce Lee" and ranked the film high on his 10-best list for 1986. Briggs is my kind of reviewer, who knows good cheese when he smells it. Kosugi really was the defining ninja of the 1980s (with all due respect to a certain group of turtles).
Arrow Films has released the film on blu-ray, and have done a very fine job of it. We have a 1080p presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM of the unrated version. yes, the unrated version, which means more of that wonderful scene with the burning elderly man! We have a brand new interview with Sho Kosugi, as well as an archive interview and Ninjitsu demonstration with Kosugi from the film's New York premiere.
I would love to have seen a an audio commentary from Kosugi, or perhaps something from Hessler, but he likely passed before Arrow got the rights. All in all, this is a great release and anyone who loves the days of renting action films based on their cover is going to appreciate what this gem has to offer.
"Gangland style killings save us a lot of police work."
The Saitos land in Los Angeles and meet with Sam Green, the widowed owner of a closed restaurant and apartment that Akira and Aiko planned to buy. After the sale is completed and the family visits the local mall, the cigar store area of the building is broken into by police Sgt. Trumble (Charles Greuber), a corrupt cop along with his partner Sgt. Joe Daly (Matthew Faison) working for local mobster Mr. Newman (Michael Constantine). Daly removes loose floor boards and puts a large white box underneath, containing the Van Adda necklace. However, he reconsiders and double-crosses the mob by taking tne necklace for himself. The next day Newman's enforcer, Limehouse Willie (James Booth), waits until the building is again deserted before entering himself only to discover the necklace is missing. Seeing Sam Green's packed luggage in his car, Willie incorrectly dedeuces that he's skipping town with the jewels and kills him even though he doesn't find them. Suspicion now fails on the Saitos.
The next day, as Akira and Aiko enjoy the first day of business - "Aiko's Japanese Restaurant" - Tomoya and Takeshi go out to the local store and are confronted by local bullies eyeing Takeshi's bike. Tomoya - who has a red belt in karate - defends his younger brother and bests the bullies. But during the fight, Willie abducts Tomoya and leaves Takeshi with a broken nose when he tries to stop him. awesome if you can see it in it's entirely but unless you have it on a old Australian VHS tape forget about it i first saw this at a drive in just before I turned 18 and I loved it that real evil bastard really gets his ass handed to him in the end but I think Sho Kosugi was actually hurt in at least one seen a seen that gets edited in so called DVD releases be warned I still love it hay! its not Science fiction and it's no ET but what It has is intensity it shows if a person gets pushed enough that person can and will push back this is not a girls flick at all
A band of crooked cops store stolen goods in the back room of the restaurant and unknown to them, a priceless necklace is wanted by a local syndicate.
When one of the cops decides to take the necklace for himself, the syndicate goes after the previous owner of the restaurant, then after the Akiras family.
When one of the boys is kidnapped, Akira quietly rescues him.
But when Aiko is killed, Akira finally decides to unleash his dark side....
If you've seen Revenge of the Ninja, then you've seen this, it's basically the same movie, but with a more sadistic villain, and not very good fight scenes.
Kosugi looks the part, all metal and eyeliner, but compared to other martial arts film from the eighties (especially from Cannon), it's pretty non eventful.
The villain is hilarious though, spouting off threats,setting fire to old men, and holding his own to a ninja for a decent ten minutes.
There are a few good scenes, but it's almost a carbon copy of Kosugis better movie.
But it has a wonderful theme tune.
and his family
** (out of 4)
A Japanese man (Shô Kosugi) moves his wife and two sons to America to start a new life but it's soon turned into chaos when a gangster starts terrorizing them believing that they have a priceless jewel. What we've got here is basically a DEATH WISH movie but instead of Charles Bronson we're given a ninja. This here certainly doesn't come close to the same level as one of the DEATH WISH films and I'd say it's no where near the level of REVENGE OF THE NINJA but fans of the genre will probably still have a good time with it. I think the biggest problem working against the film is that we've simply seen this type of story way too many times and outside the ninja stuff, there's really nothing new done with it here. We basically have a good-hearted man coming to America do to everything right but then he runs up against a ruthless gangster who just wants to kill and torture. It's pretty strange to see how much of the violence is towards the two young kids and when you see this you know you're watching something from the 1980s. The film certainly picks up some steam as it moves along and reaches the revenge aspect. The finale has Kosugi putting on the ninja suit, grabbing his sword and stars and going out for revenge. These scenes have a certain campy feel to them but there's no question that they're good enough to please fans of the genre. Kosugi certainly doesn't fit the profile of a "great actor" but I do think he did well enough for the part and there's no question that you're able to connect with him and feel for his situation. The rest of the performances are rather forgettable but they're good enough for this type of film. The violence in the film is all rather tame, although there's an uncut version out there that features a little bit more. Still, PRAY FOR DEATH is far from what one would consider a good movie but it has its own charm that makes it viewable entertainment.
Also, when does having your half-American Japanese wife killed in the U.S. give you and your kids the right to reside there permanently? None of them are citizens.
The old geezer ninja dude's makeup looked like it was applied by a 10 year old.
Besides that, it's a really crappy movie too. That's why I just saw it on hulu.com for free...