Sho Kosugi returns in Pray for Death after his breakout roles in the fantastically fun Revenge of the Ninja (1983) and Ninja III: The Domination (1984) . This time around the film was not produced by Canon films but by Trans World Entertainment whom were also purveyors of over the top action cheese. Unlike his Canon films though this one is more grim and less cartoonish.
There must have been some cigar chomping misanthrope that came up with this film. Ninja’s were popular largely due to Sho himself, the Death Wish franchise was also very popular at the time so why not combine the two? Sho plays a cog in a giant corporate machine in Japan. He’s climbing the ladder but he isn’t happy. He wants to start his own business. His wife suggests that they go to America, her homeland, and start a shop there. Sho is concerned however, he says there’s too much violence in the cities in America. His wife presses and off they go to America to find their fortunes. Unlucky for them they bought a building in a rough neighborhood, unbeknownst to them. The kindly old guy that sold it to them said the block was likely to be in the center of a renewal in the city. It looks like Death Wish 3. Graffiti everywhere, trash, gang members, and a general sense of lawlessness. Their building is being used as a drop for the mafia in an abandoned room. Again, Sho did not luck out with this real estate purchase. A valuable necklace is supposed to be secreted in the building for the mafia to find but instead of leaving the necklace there, the dirty cops involved steal the necklace for themselves and blame Sho and/or the original owner. Bummer. The mafia does some dirty rotten things and they unleash the beast that is Sho Kosugi and now they will all PRAY FOR DEATH.
When I popped in this flick I was hoping for more action fun. Indeed you do get lots of action in the film but it’s also littered with moments that are not just cheesy mindless fun. Sho’s children, played by his actual kids, get beaten up and one suffers an even worse fate. The wife is also beaten up and abused by the bad guys which has a strong Death Wish vibe though thankfully no one gets raped in the movie. Sho tries to hold back but once his fury is unleashed we get some impressive and brutal fight scenes. This Blu Ray version of the film is also uncut. We get close up shots of bloody wounds and dirty tricks that were left out on in the R-rated version. The extra footage feels and looks grimy giving the film a nastier vibe than I was expecting. At times the film does feel like a Canon silly flick but then it goes too far just like the goons in the movie. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the flick, because I did. It’s a well made action film that delivers everything it promises. It’s just not as much fun and silly as I was hoping.
The Blu looks fantastic. The whole film has been cleaned up and looks damn near brand new. As always with Arrow, the disc has some nice features including a new interview with the reclusive Kosugi. It also includes the R-rated version for those who don’t want to see close ups of giant gashes.