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New Releases for Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rage of Honor

Genre: Action Directed by: Gordon Hessler Run time: 98 minutes Rating: R Format: Blu-Ray The Lowdown: Man, oh man, when I was a teenager growing up in the 1980s, I absolutely loved Shô Kosugi and his amazing ninja skills.

You couldn’t go see a ninja movie in the theater without knowing who Kosugi was. From “Enter the Ninja” to “Revenge of the Ninja” to “Ninja III: The Domination” (my personal favorite) and “Nine Deaths of the Ninja,” Kosugi kicked ass in a string of quickly made action flicks from 1981 to 1985.

By that point, Kosugi was ready to test his box office appeal on a broader stage, and so Rage of Honor was born as a vehicle to allow Kosugi to non-ninja his way into America’s collective movie-going heart.

Rage of Honor is a straight-up police action thriller not unlike similar films of that era starring Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and more. Kosugi plays Shiro, a Japanese cop tracking a vicious drug syndicate to Singapore and South America, determined to extract revenge for the murder of his partner.

It’s not a particularly great action movie – not like, say, “Ninja III: The Domination,” which features demonic possession, ninja bad-assery and aerobics – but it features enough truly memorable, “What the hell was that?” moments that one quickly understands why Arrow Video decided to make a high-definition transfer release.

Despite stating his intention to stay away from his more-recognizable antics, Kosugi still comes off like a skilled martial arts assassin, only he’s wearing a dress shirt and slacks instead of the traditional shinobi shozoko worn by ninjas. He kicks, he chops, he makes multiple free-standing back flips and he uses throwing stars that contain explosives! (Fun fact – Kosugi personally designed many of the weapons employed during the fight scenes.)

Rage of Honor also benefits from the capable lens of director Gordon Hessler, who gave us such genre greats as “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad,” “The Oblong Box” and “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.”

Hessler’s playful eye allows certain scenes, such as the opening police raid on board a yacht populated by drug dealers and party-goers, to explode in a flurry of frenetic violence.

My personal favorite scene comes near the midway mark when Kosugi is casing a suspected drug facility in Singapore. Hessler’s camera trains on the security fence, showing a distracted guard through the chain links. Suddenly, Kosugi’s face pops up from below the frame, staring directly into the camera, before he executes a wicked back flip over the fence and knocking the guard unconscious with his nunchucks mid-flip before landing safely on his feet.

It’s awesome and hysterical, all at the same time, much like the bulk of Kosugi’s storied filmography.

The Stuff You Care About:

Hot chicks – Not really. Nudity – Brief. Gore – Minimal Drug use – Yes. Bad Guys/Killers – South American drug cartels. Buy/Rent – Fans of ‘80s exploitation action will want to own this one for the special features alone, including a good interview with Shô Kosugi reflecting on the film, plus trailers for all his famous ninja flicks and more.

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