Notable Cast: Sho Kosugi, James Booth, Donna Kai Benz, Norman Burton, Kane Kosugi, Shane Kosugi, Matthew Faison
For cult film fanatics, there is an almost sacred place for the ninja movie boom of the 80s that will never be touched. In a way, this dedication to what results as a ton of mediocre B-movies is a special one that the films cater themselves towards. The recent re-release of the Sho Kosugi ‘classic’ Pray for Death by Arrow Video showcases this concept in full. Nothing about Pray for Death is all that special, nor is the film actually all that good even. It’s generic in many ways and yet the film knows that it is this way and it plays up its camp to some oddly serious levels which in turn feeds right into the fan base for these kinds of films. As a film, Pray for Death rarely inspires awe (of the good or bad kind) and plays things in the most 80s-hollywood-interpretation of a ninja film as possible. Which, in its own way, is ridiculously charming in true B-movie fashion. As a fan of these kinds of movies, it’s hard to say that I didn’t enjoy every minute of the film, warts and all.
Akira (Kosugi) and his family have decided to move to America, where they can build their own business and live out their own personal American dream. Unfortunately, the property that they have purchased happens to be the trading ground for some evil white collar American scumbags and when some heisted jewelry goes missing, they have Akira and his family in their sights.
One aspect that’s unique to this latest release of the film from Arrow Video is that it features both the R-rated and Unrated versions of the film. The unrated version, complete with more violence, gore, and nudity (which is obvious to spot due to stark film quality shifts) takes the film down into darker alleys which adds to the experience of the film. Sho Kosugi always has a charismatic and intense screen presence that carries the film, but there are a few deaths and plot twists that really add a serious and often drastic tone to what might be a silly film. It makes Pray for Death feel a bit uneven as it can’t quite balance the dark elements with the humor and family friendly pieces (there is a scene where his son has to fight off some bad guys with a rigged bicycle that could have come straight from 3 Ninjas or The Goonies), so keep that in mind when going into the film too that it can shift on the fly into different tones.
|Peek a boo. I ninja you!
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Written By Matt Reifschneider