“Pray for Death”
One of the Last Ninja Movies
Sho Kosugi became a star making Ninja movies during the 1980s. One of his films was “Pray for Death” directed by Gordon Hessler. The film begins in Japan where we’re introduced to the ‘Black Ninja’ . one of the true evils in society. He is involved in battle here or so we think until we realize that we are simply watching a TV program in which he stars. The show is being watched by two young Japanese kids, Takeshi Saito (Kane Kosugi) and his brother Tomoya Saito (Shane Kosugi) and they both agree that the Black Ninja looks like their dad, a peace-loving businessman named Akira Saito (Sho Kosugi). After discussing things with his lovely wife, Aiko (Donna K. Benz), they decide that it’s time for Akira to be his own boss and so the family soon moves to America where they buy a home in an awful neighborhood in Houston and almost instantly run into trouble with some local bad guys.
Akira just wants to be left alone with his family to get his restaurant business on track but it turns out that a bunch of crooked cops are using the backroom of his place as a storeroom for stolen merchandise. One piece of the merchandise is the very valuable Van Atta Necklace which a local mobster wants to own. When one of the cops swipes the jewels, the mobsters figure it was Akira and so they take it out his wife and kids forcing him to put on his ninja suit and take deadly action against those who would harm his family. The fight scenes are quite violent and the film id basically a copy of ”Revenge of the Ninja”. There are two things that distinguish this film— it is Kosugi’s last role in a movie where he plays a ninja, and it is infamous for being his most violent and sadistic. Kosugi find’s himself going head to head with James Booth, who plays a gangster psychopath that enjoys beating old men to death, torturing Kosugi in front of his kid, and raping and killing Kosugi’s wife towards the end.
Their final scene is memorable realistic and is grittier, rougher, and more barbaric than in other films. Sho actually intended to start a restaurant and bought an old place in a bad part of town. He was no aware that crooks were using the building to hide some stolen loot in and when it turns up missing, Sho’s family becomes a target. As the movie moves forward, dangers escalate and there is blood and violence.
This is not my usual kind of movie but I must say that I was impressed by the special affects. Remember this was made in 1985 so there was not yet the technology that we have today.