Upon completing his training of ninjutsu in Japan, former Angolan Bush War veteran Cole (Franco Nero) travels to the Philippines to visit his war buddy Frank Landers (Alex Courtney) and his wife Mary-Ann (Susan George). Cole soon finds out that the Landers are being constantly harassed by corrupt CEO Charles Venarius (Christopher George) into selling their property so he can access a large oil deposit buried beneath their land.
That’s right. As you’d expect… enter the ninja.
Ohhhh… Now I get it.
Brought to us by the Golan/Globus enterprise, the very same two people that gave us Superman IV, Enter the Ninja was primarily responsible for starting the uber-cheesy ninja craze in America during the ’80s (later to be taken to greater crap-tastic heights this film could never even dream of with Miami Connection and Samurai Cop). Who better than Go-Glo to give us a part ninja/part spaghetti western/part cheesy ’80s action thriller that squares off a pasty-white Italian ninja against a slew of villains that include the world’s whiniest businessman and a tiny, hook-handed crook that looks like a tossed to the back of the inventory stock villain not even the worst of the Bond films could find any use for?
Originally meant to be a vehicle for martial arts champion Mike Stone, director Menahem Golan wanted a more internationally recognizable film star to play the lead role and went with Spaghetti Western star Franco Nero. And that there lends to some of the unintentional humor in this film. That’s not so much a knock on Nero. The man has a presence that’s born to fit the Spaghetti Western like a glove almost as much as his mustache’s born to be used in porn films. The original 1966 Django, starring Nero as the titular character, is a favorite of the genre for a reason (Quentin Tarantino gave him a fun little cameo opposite Jamie Foxx in his version, Django Unchained), and he was one of the villains in Die Hard 2. However, he couldn’t be any more miscast than he is here. If it’s not the obvious Americanized dialogue dubbing that proves it (which is so obvious having Pee-wee Herman do it would’ve been a more subtle choice), or how stiff he looks during the fight sequences (the awkward cutting between closeups of his face and wide shots of Mike Stone standing in as his choreography double don’t help), I’m sure watching him struggle mightily with a nunchaku will be the nail in the coffin that does it for you.
For a man who looks so uncomfortable performing martial arts combat opening a small jar of pickles would probably be a monumental chore for him, it’s a wonder how he can be so stealthy and agile when copping a feel of Susan George’s chest.
Simply put, Chris Farley made a more believable ninja in Beverly Hills Ninja. Yeah, take that for what it’s worth.
In fairness, Nero does show that he can do a killer “Here is the church” sequence.
Come the second-act, I think everyone involved forgot they were making a ninja movie (the so-called “rivalry” between Cole and Sho Kosugi’s Hasegawa is left to only the beginning and ending parts of the film). Once Cole arrives in the Philippines, we’re introduced to his Viagra poster boy friend Frank, his sidekick Dollars (whose side business of selling nude photos and religious trinkets such as crucifixes clearly caters to all markets), and the tough but sexually frustrated blonde babe Mary-Ann who Cole has an affair with because her own husband can’t get it up for her, and honestly, Cole’s skill at luring women to bed can’t be as bad as his skills with ninja weapons.
Well… I should say lack thereof.
While Nero’s miscast performance contributes to the crap-tastic quality of Enter the Ninja, it’s far from being the be-all and end-all of it, and is only the tip of the iceberg. The icing on the cake here would go to former John Wayne Western baddie and star of The Rat Patrol Christopher George’s over-the-top performance as the villainous CEO Charles Venarius. This guy doesn’t just chew the scenery; he mangles it to death like two pit bulls in a dog fighting ring (and his death scene has become quite a viral sensation on YouTube). No amount of wealth and power accumulated by Venarius, though, will ever make up for how much of a dunce he turns out to be. This is a man that dresses in kimonos during his leisure time and runs his business in the Philippines, one of Japan’s neighbors, yet he somehow is completely dumbfounded by what a ninja is.
See, this is where everyone remembers what the film is called and they steer it back toward maybe, just possibly having ninjas show back up again.
Don’t worry to those of you who also have no idea. Venarius’s handy dandy assistant Mr. Parker (or as Venarius calls him, “Mr. PARKER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”) gives him a Wikipedia-style explanation of what exactly a ninja is. Once he finally knows what pretty much every other man, woman, child and I guess film producer (the latter of whom is approached by an aide of Venarius in getting a ninja ’cause apparently they can do that) in the known universe already knows, he wants a ninja of his own, and he wants him now.
Uh – did you hear him? “I WANT MY BLACK NINJA AND I WANT HIM NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Well, then just call J.G. Wentworth, 877-KUNG-POW!
It’s your black ninja… Use it when you need it!
While not as painfully earnest as Miami Connection or technically inept as Samurai Cop, Enter the Ninja, a film that ironically isn’t about ninjas as much as its title would suggest, is closer to those two films in terms of pretty much every single aspect than Enter the Dragon, a film that should sue this film for all it’s worth for stealing two-thirds of its title. This isn’t the mother of all bad films, but there’s still enough so bad it’s good value thanks to Franco Nero’s hilariously miscast turn and Christopher George’s outrageously over-the-top performance. You expect nothing more and nothing less from the very production team that carried over the same craft and expertise they accomplished with martial arts here to arm wrestling in Over the Top.