Ninja Star Sho Kosugi Battles Criminals in South America

Rage of Honor is the second collaboration between ninja action star Sho Kosugi and director Gordon Hessler for b-movie label Trans World Entertainment. Following Kosugi’s successful string of films like Enter the Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja for Cannon, he jumped ship to Trans World Entertainment to make the ninja classic Pray For Death. Rage of Honor has Japanese actor Sho Kosugi transitioning into an action star that handles guns and fights far more conventional villains: ruthless drug lords.

Rage of Honor is all kinds of awesome for action fans of the Eighties. Take Sho Kosugi’s proven brand of high-flying ninja action, putting it in a standard action template that could have fit easily in a Chuck Norris movie or the Rambo franchise with a little modification. A better b-movie title for Rage of Honor would have been “Ninja Cop Versus South America.” That title would have sold the movie much better to interested fans.

… Rage of Honor holds its own quite well with more pyrotechnics and louder explosions.

There is still plenty of standard ninja action to enjoy, like his seemingly unlimited supply of ninja stars and drug dealers who inexplicably carry Japanese swords. Sho Kosugi’s character has to battle tribal natives and other forces in the jungles of South America. That makes Rage of Honor a unique entry in the history of ninja films. There is plenty of ridiculous, over-the-top action that shows off all of Sho Kosugi’s skills as a fight choreographer. Rage of Honor introduced far more explosions and gun fights than Sho’s prior films, which tried to catapult the actor into a real action star beyond his ninja fan base.

Sho Kosugi plays Shiro Tanaka, a drug enforcement agent for the United States working to take down a cocaine ring in Argentina. His partner Ray is killed back in Arizona, which ultimately leads to Shiro going back to Argentina with his girlfriend. His girlfriend Jennifer will soon become a hostage for the criminals, held deep in the jungles of South America near the scenic Iguazu Falls. It is up to Shiro by himself to wage a one-man war rescuing his girlfriend and toppling this criminal drug empire.

This is a pure action movie that would have made for an excellent Chuck Norris vehicle. It sounds ridiculous but Sho Kosugi puts on a convincing display of ninja fighting in the jungle, using the strange environment to his advantage. While Pray For Death is the better ninja film with its classic archetypes of the genre, Rage of Honor holds its own quite well with more pyrotechnics and louder explosions. The plot is cheesy and one wonders why a South American drug lord would have Japanese ninjas on retainer, but action fans will lap up everything about it.

Movie ★★★★☆

Rage of Honor Blu-ray screen shot 11

Arrow Video presents a fairly crisp, vivid Hi-Def film experience for Rage of Honor. Licensed from MGM, the transfer has been taken from original elements in fine, if slightly dated, condition. The 1080P video has the opening and closing credits framed at 2:00:1, while the rest is shown at the movie’s intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The uncut 91-minute main feature is encoded in AVC on a BD-50, averaging over 30 Mbps. The picture quality improvement is better than expected and dwarfs the terrible video found on the old MGM DVD.

The video is slightly soft but film-like, retaining the movie’s standard grain structure. The elements are in fine condition with minor bits of film debris and a couple of aberrant chroma streaks. This is a decent, watchable film transfer likely struck a few years ago. It showcases nice clarity for this film stock with a hint of ringing on occasion. The picture is sharp enough, allowing more depth than expected from the inconsistent cinematography. A slight magenta push skews the warm flesh-tones. There are no signs serious video processing has stripped out its inherent fine detail.

Shot on location in Arizona and South America, some of the jungle scenery is quite interesting and even beautiful, especially the waterfalls. A nice contrast opens up with solid black levels in the exterior shots, though a couple of early interior shots have fairly weak shadow delineation. All in all, Rage of Honor looks solid in this Blu-ray presentation and is the definitive word on the film. A brand-new scan and restoration would have made more improvement but this is definitely worth a purchase.

Video ★★★★☆

The cheesy synth score by Italian composer Stelvio Cipriani is heard in an energetic, action-packed 2.0 PCM stereo soundtrack. Rage of Honor has a wide range of explosions and gunfire, all heard in nice fidelity. The sound design is typical of these older, b-movie action flicks. Cleanly intelligible dialogue spoken in heavily accented English by Sho Kosugi and others is mixed well into the stereo field. One thing missing here is a 5.1 surround mix found on the MGM DVD.

Optional English SDH subtitles appear in a white font.

Audio ★★★★☆

Fewer supplements than normal for an Arrow Video Blu-ray release, though it is still an attractive package. The interview with Sho Kosugi is a continuation of the one found on Pray For Death’s BD.

The first pressing includes a collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film and an extract from Kosugi’s upcoming book. A reversible sleeve features original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin.

Sho and Tell Part 2 (17:48 in HD) – This recent Sho Kosugi interview was conducted for Rage’s release. He talks about the film and his good relationship with its director, Gordon Hessler. Apparently they had planned on another project together before Hessler passed away. Sho also discusses his memories of working with Van Damme.

Stelvio Cipriani Interview (02:47 in HD) – The film’s composer goes over some of his Italian work from the Seventies. In Italian with English subtitles.

American Ninjas (07:34 in HD) – Writer Chris Poggiali briefly recaps the major points of the ninja craze in American pop culture. A fun but superficial look at the history of ninjas.

Sho Kosugi Film Trailer Gallery – Trailers for Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, Pray For Death, and Rage of Honor.

Extras ★★★☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review in the form of a screener that may not reflect the final retail product. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit our About Us page.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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