Pray for Death (1985)

This movie taught me about a ninja’s various superpowers. There’s the super strength which allows a ninja to open a locked door just by pushing it real hard. There’s also the super toughness that enables a ninja to withstand having a board of balsa wood smashed across his chest without apparent harm. Then you’ve got a ninja’s super gymnastic moves so that he can do cartwheels and flips during battles instead of just running here and there like us mere mortals are forced to get by with. But perhaps most astounding of all his battle skills is his super precognition!

Sho Kosugi’s wife wants to go live in the United States. Sho (Black Eagle, Revenge Of The Ninja, Rage Of Honor) is secretly a ninja though and says that America is too violent and no good can come of moving from the safety of Japan to the Unites States.

Despite his ancient wisdom though, even this ninja suffers the same weakness as all men – a nagging wife. So they pack their crap and head over to America. I imagine that when Sho is worshipping at the impromptu shrine to his wife after she is murdered that he is attempting to make contact with her spirit so he can drop a big fat “I told you so!” on her!

Sho and his family don’t actually make it to America where they are harassed by jewel thieves and crooked cops until about one-third of the way through the film, but Pray For Death doesn’t care about waiting for any stinking story to get started in on the ninja drama! There’s the opening sequence where Sho’s two little bratty kids are watching a ninja TV show, there’s a dramatic showdown at the little brats’ karate class where one of them takes down the sneering class bully, and best of all, the flashback and showdown with Sho and his old ninja master at the ultra-secret ninja temple!


If you think that being all bad ass at your ninja job is a cake walk, that just shows you don’t know that part of being all bad ass at anything involves a haunted past! How can you expect to lead a mundane, every day existence, pretending to be a family man, if it isn’t because you quit the ninjas because you were forced to fight your brother to the death when he was trying to steal your ninja temple’s treasure?

The whole haunted past gimmick doesn’t actually affect the rest of the movie though Pray For Death has too many ninja skills to sweat whether one part of the movie has anything to do with another part.

Sure, there were a couple of times when I saw Sho invading a boat or a mansion and for a fleeting moment had no idea how he knew to go there, but once guys started getting their necks snapped, shot with arrows, sliced with swords and most importantly, having throwing stars embedded in their foreheads, I just chalked the plot holes up to his ninja stealth!

Sho of course doesn’t come to America looking to buy out Home Depot’s ninja supply section in a quest for vengeance. He actually intends to start a restaurant and buys the old Green place in a bad part of town. (This is hilariously demonstrated in a bit where Sho and family walk down the street past a variety of cliched thugs and drunken bums!)


What he doesn’t know is that crooks are using the building to hide some stolen loot in. When the loot turns up missing, Sho’s family becomes a target! Well, after old man Green is questioned about it, beaten with a crow bar and then burned to death by Limehouse and his gang right before his car explodes in a gigantic mushroom cloud! Dang, that is a bad part of town!

Limehouse and Sho somehow end up battling in a warehouse full of mannequins which is cool enough, but it also turns out that there’s a sawmill in there which is even cooler! When Sho chucks a shuriken into the on/off switch of the spinning blade of certain death, you can’t help but exhale a ninja-like sigh of relief!

Lame ninja movies might be satisfied with some unexpected sawmill action, but in Pray For Death (written by the guy playing Limehouse!) the dangers only escalate from one unlikely scenario to another!

No sooner does Sho escape the buzzsaw, then Limehouse picks up a chainsaw that just happens to by lying around the old mannequin warehouse all gassed up and starts trying to carve his initials on Sho’s helmeted head! And this after the fight first began with Limehouse going after Sho with an axe! When Sho finally drives a metal stake through Limehouse trapping him on the buzzsaw’s conveyor belt and fires it up leaving Limehouse to be bisected, it’s pretty much just self defense!


If you had to compile a “Top 10 Best Ninja Movie Moments” list, most of them would come from this movie alone! The ninja vs. pickup truck fight which sees Sho jump over it, letting it run over him, and riding around underneath of it could probably account for three spots on the list by itself! Heck, poor Sho rode under it for hours since it was broad daylight when he started and he didn’t get off until later that night!

And how about that ninja training montage where he turns his abandoned warehouse into a forge? When he’s not pounding a sword into shape on an anvil, he’s pouring water on himself and breaking necklaces in slow motion! And all the while, the Pray For Death love theme is blaring in the background!

But what has to take the top spot is when one of Sho’s brats turns his bicycle into a ninjacycle! I thought I was rad for having a Green Machine when I was a kid! No wonder I didn’t grow up to be a ninja!

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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