Shogun's Ninja (Japan 1982)

Rating: **
Review Date: 2/20/00
Action Choreograpy: Sonny Chiba
Cast: Hiroyuki Sanada, Sonny Chiba, Sue Shiomi

A beautifully filmed ninja adventure featuring buff pop star Hiroyuki Sanada. Unfortunately, the story makes no sense whatsoever and suffers from poor editing, a two hour running time, a totally inappropriate porno jazz/disco soundtrack, and the typically bad English dubbing. Sonny Chiba is a nasty samurai in charge of an army of ninja. In his quest for power, he annihilates most of young Hiroyuki Sanada's family, but Sanada manages to get away and grows into a fine young man who is hell bent for vengeance. He hooks up with some other survivors from his clan and wages war against Chiba's army, but is utterly defeated. From there, Sanada and his depleted ranks continue training and launch another major offensive against Chiba and ultimately win (after most everyone dies). His family avenged, Sanada rides off into the sunset with the adorably cute ninja girl.

The cinematography is gorgeous, and almost immediately we're treated to an exquisitely beautiful suicide scene. Additionally, the fight choreography and execution is good, and surprisingly reminiscent of Hong Kong style fighting. Hiroyuki Sanada looks great and is totally ripped - lucky for us, he's shirtless for most of the movie. His fighting and acrobatics are amazing, but vacilate wildly between karate style moves and dirty dancing. He's actually a little uncomfortable to watch at times (is he trying to kill his opponents or seduce them?). Although he doesn't hardly do anything, Sonny Chiba nearly steals the show just because he looks so cool. The one or two fights that he's in clearly express just how good of an action actor he is. The real letdown is Sue Shiomi, who after an embarrassing walk-on part shows up to aid Sanada about ninety minutes into the film and is killed shortly thereafter. To offset that bummer, there is another ninja chick who's a lot cuter, and she manages to survive the entire film. Sadly, even with all these good things going for it, the film is just too damn long and is a serious chore to watch.