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Movie Reviews : 'Pray For Death': Simple Savagery

February 28, 1986|KEVIN THOMAS

In the savage, simple-minded martial arts movie "Pray for Death" (citywide) its hero (Sho Kosugi) should sue his realtor.

How else could a seemingly successful Yokohama restaurateur (and secret Ninja warrior) wind up with a dump in the dangerous slums of an unnamed American city? Why didn't his American-born wife (Donna Kei Benz) know better since her father is buried there?

But then "Pray for Death" cannot withstand scrutiny of any sort. There may be balletic beauty in Kosugi's martial arts displays, but this is an out-and-out exploitation picture with a plot that is but an excuse to depict hideous violence and to appeal crudely to the vigilante mentality.

The ramshackle cafe Kosugi has bought unfortunately has a storeroom where a crooked cop has hidden a fabled stolen necklace, which brings down all manner of mindless, unspeakable brutality upon Kosugi's family from the minions of local underworld chieftain Michael Constantine. Kosugi despairs of police protection yet allows his badly beaten wife and son to remain in a hospital unguarded. Only after she's murdered does he don his samurai gear and go into his Ninja routine in earnest.

Benz is a lovely, capable actress, but Kosugi must have inherited Bruce Lee's acting secrets. It's depressing to note that James Booth, that fine and funny veteran British actor, not only plays the film's glum and sadistic hit man but also wrote this trash, which was directed by another capable Briton, Gordon Hessler.

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