I have to tell you. I wish more DVDs got the featurette treatment. I really couldn’t care less about the making of The Matrix or Jurassic Park. I’m far more interested in what was going on in the director’s head during the production of 9 Deaths of the Ninja. I’d put money down that his thoughts involved a bear wearing a fez, driving a little car at the circus. 9 Deaths is a little more than 90 minutes of mind melting insanity. I’m still not sure if I drifted off to sleep early in the movie and my dreams were a rough approximation of a ninja movie starring Sho Kosugi.
I was 9 when this movie was released to theaters and I clearly remember seeing the ad for it in the Boston Globe one sunday morning and freaking out. You got a big ninja and a little ninja busting through him with ninja stars and a sword and a crossbow. How could this movie not be totally sweet? I’m pretty sure that even in the midst of Cap’n Crunch induced ninja freak out, my 9 year old self would have stood up and demanded to know what was going on.
The movie begins with the laziest assault of a terrorist camp that you’ll probably ever see. Even Bruno Mattei put more effort into his combat scenes. Sho Kosugi and his white guy partner take their time casually chucking throwing stars and grenades at a bunch of lethargic guys in head scarves. When the carnage is through, it turns out that this was some kind of demo of the US government’s latest task force, the Dark Team. Spike Shinobi, Steve and Jennifer are three of the elitest of the elite as far as anti-terror teams go. Okay. Stop. The credits sequence bears mention. As the opening credits roll, we’re treated to a swanky slow-jam while three girls dance around a shirtless Kosugi while he performs some kind of choreographed kata with his sword that integrates into their dance routine. Let it be known that this is the best choreography in the whole movie. Yes. The dance scene. Shortly thereafter, a busload of folks in the Philippines are taken hostage by a drug producing terrorist group led by some nazi who looks like a cross between Christopher Lloyd and Bad-era Michael Jackson. The nazi, named Alby The Cruel, is aided by a skeletal lesbian with a huge frizzy afro, her three lesbian enforces and a bunch of cackling drug freaks. They want some borderline animal terrorist name Rahji released from prison for some reason. Naturally, Dark Team is enlisted to release the hostages and take out Alby and his group. Dark Team is stalked by Alby’s people every step of the way. During a confusing investigation of an art gallery, Kosugi is attacked by a couple of knife wielding idiots and half a dozen midgets in fedoras and dark glasses. Then some guy with a knife falls ten feet to his unfortunate death. The movie, already crazy, goes fucking haywire here. The government agrees to release Rahji, who for reasons unknown, kills his driver and takes off on foot. Kosugi gives chase and stops along the way to pay out fifty bucks for a prostitute and then continues chasing Rahji. Somewhere along the way, Rahji gets in a helicopter with Kosugi captive. Kosugi fires the gun, point blank into the palm of Rahji’s hand and he catches the god damn bvllet! The stream of consciousness plot rolls along with a few crappy fight scenes until Dark Team storms the island that Alby is hidden out on and manages to free the hostages. A few ninjas show up. During all this madness, Kosugi’s real life sons get some screen time to perform hilarious antics like setting some terrorist’s underwear on fire and whooping on another with some nunchaku that they find laying around.
I’m laying it on you pretty thick. This trainwreck is crazier than shithouse rat. Logic took the day off, apparently. I find myself at a loss to properly convey any reasonable thoughts. On one hand, I felt like I was losing my mind while watching it. On the other hand, I loved it. One of my first ideas for this review was simply to post a photo of my baffled facial expression and leave it at that, but I gave Catman the dignity of several paragraphs, I guess I owe it to 9 Deaths of the Ninja as well.
There are a couple of scenes that demonstrate that Kosugi was no slouch when it came to fighting but they’re shot so poorly that you never get a good look. So with poor action scenes all you’re really left with are some downright hilarious characters. I couldn’t tell if Alby The Cruel was supposed to be funny or villainous. He sits in a wheelchair most of the movie petting a monkey on a chain while enunciating his dialog as if he suffered a stroke only moments before. His second in command, Honey Hump, however, is completely frightening. She makes passive agressive, amazonian rants about her woman warriors while letting her bony assets all hang out. Meanwhile, Dark Team is staffed by Spike Shinobi, master ninja, Steve, a sleazy pretty boy who seems only interested in getting laid, even by the villains, and their bobbled headed communications coordinator Jennifer, who spends her own fair share of time in revealing clothing. Their handler is a Philippino gentleman who blandly delivers confusing orders while standing in front of a big framed photo of Ronald Reagan. When it’s all over, you’ll probably be as confused as I was. After the prisoners are freed, the movie cuts to some palatial estate, having completely forgotten about Alby and his army. They show up again, and Alby meets a most hilarious end that makes the previous 90 minutes completely worth it.
It’s movies like these that take me out of myself at times and make me wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life when I spend precious hours of my life span watching 9 Deaths of the Ninja. It’s a beautiful moment of clarity, a sudden realization of existentialism. These suddenly zen moments are immediately squashed when I dive back into the madness, though. Maybe I suffer some kind of self-loathing that keeps me coming back.
I really don’t know.
9 Deaths of the Ninja. What the hell? Seriously!