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Just Look Away: RAGE OF HONOR

Let me be clear about something from the beginning: Sho Kosugi is the man, and he has been since the release of Enter the Ninja in 1981.

This movie is no Enter the Ninja.

It’s not even Pray for Death.

It’s not even Rage and Honor (1992, with Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton).

This 1987 ninja movie has no rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where only 36% of the audience report liking it.

By the way, this column doesn’t have any quotes from the movie because the dialogue is a mix of god-awful clichés delivered with impenetrable accents.

Why Bother?

You might want to watch this because, as I already mentioned, Sho Kosugi is the man. By 1964, he was All Japan Karate Champion. He won the Los Angeles Open three years running (1972-1974). He is the real deal, a genuine bad ass, whether he’s actually a ninja or not.

Don’t miss the chance to watch Lewis Van Bergen as the drug lord’s elite assassin-for-hire. He delivers a remarkably creepy performance as Havelock (the IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes credit him as “drug lord,” but I actually watched Rage of Honor twice, and he plays Havelock).

Also, some of the stunt men are, or preserve the techniques of, gauchos, Argentinian cowboys. The film shows off some of those techniques, including use of bolas. If you’re interested in martial arts from all over the world, the gauchos are a reason to watch Rage of Honor.

Also, if you’re a fan of crappy ‘80s action movies, and their cheesy theme music, you should see Rage of Honor.

I watched it

Shiro Tanaka (Sho Kosugi) is an agent with the “US Drug Investigation Bureau” on assignment in South America. His partner investigates a tip solo, and a traitor tips off the drug lord, who kills Shiro’s partner. Shiro sets himself on revenge, at all costs to himself, his family, and his friends.

The Verdict

Rage of Honor hasn’t held up over the last 20+ years.

It’s a relic of a time when movie heroes believed that they could ignore regulations and kill anyone as long as they kept drugs off the streets. Watching it now, I keep thinking that Shiro’s partner wouldn’t have been killed if he followed regulations. I think that Shiro killing a cocaine distributor during a chase in the opening sequence was homicide.

To its credit, Rage of Honor makes a point of showing how horrible the bad guys are – and they’re at least as bad as the cops out to get them, if not worse. Too many movies make the mistake of telling the audience with rushed exposition delivered by sub-par actors, instead of showing.

The clothes are dated, the acting is sub-par, many of the actors need vocal coaches (including Sho Kosugi, who is occasionally unintelligible), and the “exotic” settings were clearly chosen for how cheaply MGM/UA could film there, rather than how cool they are.

Like most of Mr. Kosugi’s ‘80s movies, Rage of Honor shows its low budget in almost every scene.

His gravitas and presence make up for much of that, but many of the fight scenes are filmed to cover up his opponents’ lack of fighting skill. The close-range shots make it hard to follow what’s happening in the fight, but it’s pretty obvious that no one in the cast matches Sho Kosugi’s skill (in 1988, he went up against Jean Claude Van Damme in Black Eagle, but I haven’t inflicted that on myself, so I can’t say whether they were well matched as opponents).

Just Look Away from this. There are plenty of better Sho Kosugi movies.

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