Pray for Death

Pray for Death

Pray for Death

1985. Directed by Gordon Hessler.

You know what I miss?  No holds barred, over the top, ridiculously violent, utterly cheesy 80's American martial arts film.  Pray for Death, starring the icon Sho Kosugi is the epitome of ultra-violent abandon..

Akira(Kosugi) is a ninja who forsakes the shadows of the Ninja to move to America at the request of his wife.  His family opens a restaurant and soon find themselves in the middle of a mafia police double cross.   It doesn't take long for Akira's family to be wounded and him to swear vendetta, once again donning the black and the blades for a blood splattered, rip roaring final showdown. 

They simply don't make movies like this any more.  Once could argue that the schlock violence niche is being filled by direct to disc and video on demand, but I contend they pale in comparison to the hyper action exploitation efforts of the 80's and submit Pray for Death as a shining example.   This is a film that has no expectations.  It is a revenge story, given to the viewer with respect for their wanton tendencies.  It doesn't preach, it doesn't lecture, it just straight up kicks ass from start to finish.  

Featuring amazing stunt choreography by Alan Amiel and Ed Anders, strung together by classic, grindhouse editing by Bill and Steve Butler, Pray for Death is the film you convinced dad to rent on a Friday night when you were 13 and it still holds up.   Completely unapologetic in dishing out violence (no one, not even children are safe), the film uses brutality as a vehicle to allow the viewer to root for Kosugi and relish every swing of the blade and every toss of the star. 

The final showdown is a sequence that requires multiple viewings to catch all of the amazing stunts and intricate ninja techniques.  Kosugi was so underrated and ultimately forgotten because he embodied the idea of the dagger in the dark.   Yes there are scenes of straight up action, but Pray for Death shines when it does the dirty in the darkness.  

Complete with a chainsaw vs. ninja duel and some of the most overacted tough guy stares in cinema history, Pray for Death is a great popcorn film.   When the soul of cinema is being slowly grinded away by the Hollywood Blockbuster Machine, it's films like this one, brought to gorgeous HD life by Arrow Video, that keep the true intent of films alive.   Some are high art and complex.  Others are just straight up punches to the face, and Pray for Death is in the latter camp.  

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