Sakura Killers (1987)

No, I don’t know why Shredder and the Terminator are hanging out back there in that poster. I also don’t know why the USA was stylized as a pseudo-swastika. And Contra has nothing to do with this. Yeah, it’s another bad ninja movie…which means it’s a great ninja movie.

Ninjas attack rent-a-cops and steal a Betamax tape containing a secret formula that can easily be played in the comfort of your living room. Chuck Connors plays The Colonel, who shoots up a bunch of ninjas that attack his ranch and then tells his weird assistant/subordinate/daughter/I-don’t-know-their-relationship who keeps doing aerobics throughout the film that she must recruit a couple of guys. They settle on Dennis, a massive hunk of man meat, and send him to Taiwan to meet up with his buddy, Sonny, to investigate Japanese ninjas. In Taiwan. To do this, Dennis has to found a boxing gym, establish a reputation…and then completely forget about that for the rest of the movie. Dennis and Sonny ask around and fight off ninjas that attack them. They also meet a lady who happens to be the head ninja’s girlfriend. Manji, the head ninja, decides to harass but not kill Dennis and Sonny. The two bad dudes link up with an old friend, Karen. Karen’s uncle decides that Dennis and Sonny are bad enough dudes, so he trains them in the ways of the ninja, only he makes them wear plastic masks of demons because that makes this movie even more believable. Back on the ranch, Chuck Connors continues cleaning guns and dealing with his ninja infestation. Dennis and Sonny become ninjas, fight Manji’s ninjas, harass that dude’s girlfriend and convince her to break up with Manji, and eventually track down the bad guys, only to learn the ninjas have given the Betamax tape to the Russians. Dennis, Sonny, and Karen show up at the Russians’ lab and take the tape but then fight Manji under an overpass. Manji turns into an army of straw dummies, but when he goes for the tape, his girlfriend stabs him instead. I guess she’s his ex now. Manji commits seppuku. Back on the farm, Chuck Connors decides not to go skeet shooting with the Betamax tape, because VHS is the format of the future, and that thing could become a collector’s item or something.

Let’s get something straight. The ninjas got the Betamax tape, and then they held onto it for the months to years it took for Dennis to establish a boxing gym, build a reputation, link up with Sonny, and then the two to get fully trained as ninjas. In the amount of time that took, DVD freaking became a thing. Stupid procrastinating ninjas.

For the record, I don’t think Chuck Connors ever changed clothes during this movie. That tells me that he got hired for a day, probably didn’t even leave his house, and just had them film him cleaning his guns. That said, he seriously needs to do something about all the ninjas that keep showing up. I believe he could go buy traps for that down at the hardware store, but like hell is he leaving his ranch for the one day of filming. Somebody might recognize him and piece together that he was making a movie called Sakura Killers. Yeah, I probably wouldn’t go get those ninja traps either.

This is a surprisingly international movie, and some credit is due that the Westerners don’t immediately act like Japanese or Chinese traditions are weird and/or dumb. They accept the differences but openly show a willingness to try new things and learn. Yeah, the ninjas are still mystical supermen, but at least the heroes don’t make us look bad. Plus, ninjas make great break dancers. I can tell because they keep doing the worm to get around, and their crab walking skills are phenomenal. A little wire work can go a long way too.

How are beef chunk and string bean, the two commanding American leads? They’re honestly not bad either. George Nicholas is freaking massive and built like he can take the punishment he dishes out, while Mike Kelly moves like Bruce Lee, and not in a cheap imitation kind of way. Sure, these guys baseball swing their swords, but they also went in for their own wire work and don’t look bad when they do their moves. Plus, they beat one dude by savagely crotch smashing him into a tree trunk. I’m not gonna mess with them.

Sakura Killers. The only certainty is your last heartbeat.” That is a terrible tagline.

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