Following his star turns in 80s actioners Enter the Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja, Sho Kosugi continued his domination of the US martial arts movie with 1987 s Rage of Honor helmed once again by Pray for Death director Gordon Hessler (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad).
Federal agent Shiro Tanaka (Kosugi) used to live for his job now, he lives only for revenge. When his partner is killed during a bungled drug bust, Shiro throws away his badge and the rule book with it: arming himself with an array of deadly weaponry including nunchucks, blades and ninja stars he sets out to Buenos Aires to settle the score with the bad guys.
Packing explosions, flying kicks and somersaults aplenty (as well as some truly logic-bending stunt sequences), Rage of Honor sees Kosugi at the top of his game as he battles his way from the streets of the urban jungle to the very literal jungles of South America.
I can't help it. I'm a sucker for these old kung-fu ninja movies that pack the cheese and "so bad it's good" vibes. There's a certain nostalgic element here, where the low budget sets and actors use their fighting skills to take down a string of bad guys across the world. Yes, I know that sounds like almost any Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, or Donnie Yen movie, but in my opinion, those films were on a higher level than most.
More towards the bottom of the barrel, but still a lot of fun was a Japanese actor named Sho Kosugi, who was quite popular back in the 80s and made a ton of ninja movies. In 1987, Kosugi made 'Rage of Honor', directed by Gordon Hessler, who is famous for directing 'The Golden Voyage of Sinbad'. Instead of making the same ninja movie that Kosugi has done time and time again, Hessler tried to add a secret spy element to it and take it to South America.
The problem with that, was that although Kosugi was great at fighting, he didn't have that natural charm and wit that other actors had, and thus fell short of being amazing. Still, the amount of cheese and ridiculous plot holes and dialogue will have you laughing throughout, despite the film trying to be all too serious. Kosugi plays basically a DEA agent named Shiro Tanaka who is good at his job. His partner though is brutally murdered by a ridiculous, yet ravenous drug lord. Revenge is the only word Tanaka knows now and vows to go after the drug lord.
If his partner wasn't enough, the drug lord kidnaps Tanaka's girl, making this a super secret double probation revenge flick of the highest order. From here, Tanaka basically just mows down bad guys until he reaches the drug lord. Nothing more. Nothing less. There are a ton of fight scenes throughout, which look good and are staged well, but most of them are fairly short. In between these fight scenes are the cheese with story lines that don't make much sense and go off on tangents.
The synth score though is excellent, but provides that goofy quality to the film that tries to take itself seriously. Kosugi is good at what he does, but when you give him a meatier role with a lot of dialogue and a character who is supposed to be charismatic, it doesn't always work, hence the unwanted goofiness and comedy that comes out of this. 'Rage of Honor' is still a fun film for those who like the old school ninja flicks and don't mind the cheese that came with them. This is a forgotten genre that I think should come back.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Rage of Honor' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Arrow and is Region A Locked. The disc is housed in a clear hard plastic case with reversible cover art and an insert.
'Rage of Honor' comes with pretty decent 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio, making this one widescreen. I wouldn't say this is a top notch looking film, but this is probably the best 'Rage of Honor' has ever looked. The detail is sharp and vivid, particularly in the outdoor shots with a lot of natural light. You'll be able to make out some facial features and makeup blemishes, as well as some stitching in the wardrobe. Wider shots looks decent as well, but falls a little flat from time to time.
The darker scenes don't go over so well though, with some fairly grainy spots and a ton of video noise. Colors look good as well if not a little bit aged, but there was not any overly done color grading or saturation, but rather a consistent color scheme. Black levels were deep for the most part and skin tones looked rather natural. There still were some minor problems with some dirt and video noise, but that's about it. Still, for such a low budget film and the source, this video presentation looks rather nice.
This release comes with a lossless PCM 2.0 Stereo mix and seems like the synth score is the spotlight of the track. Sound effects are funny and come often, but there isn't any heft or depth to them. It's more just run-of-the-mill effects here, which is unfortunate, because there are a ton of fight scenes.
Dialogue is also on the softer side of things as well, but you'll be able to hear it and follow along. The score though is robust and loud and takes over everything else. I would have hoped for a 5.1 option here to fully immerse yourself in the fight scenes, but I digress. The audio presentation here gets the job done though, but don't expect to be blown away.
Sho & Tell Part II (HD, 18 Mins.) - Part I is located on the 'Pray for Death' release and features Sho Kosugi discussing his career, life, and films. Here, he talks about 'Rage of Honor' and working with some bigger action stars. Worth the watch.
American Ninjas (HD, 2 Mins.) - Writer Chris Poggiali talks about how Sho Kosugi was partly responsible for ninjas showing up in American films and television.
Stelvio Cipriani (HD, 3 Mins.) - This is an interview with the composer who talks about the music of the film and working with the director.
Trailers (HD, 9 Mins.) - Trailers for 'Rage of Honor' and three other Kosugi films.
'Rage of Honor' takes itself too seriously, which in turn makes us laugh at it. Sho Kosugi is still amazing in it, but mostly just for his fighting skills and not his acting or dialogue. Still, this movie holds up on that B-movie ninja type of level. The video and audio presentations aren't excellent, but might be the best presentations this movie has ever seen. The extras are worth watching even if they're a bit short. 'Rage of Honor' still comes Recommended if you're into the whole 80s ninja genre.