Shô Kosugi in Pray for Death (1985)


(director: Gordon Hessler; screenwriter: James Booth; cinematographer: Roy H. Wagner; editor: Steve and Bill Butler; music: Thomas Chase/Steve Rucker; cast: Shô Kosugi (Akira Saito ), James Booth (Limehouse Willie), Donna Kei Benz (Aiko Saito), Kane Kosugi (Takeshi Saito), Shane Kosugi (Tomoya Saito), Norman Burton (Lt. Anderson), Robert Ito (Master Kaga), Parley Baer (Sam Green), Michael Constantine (Mr. Newman); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Don Van Atta; Live Home Video; 1985)

The story is trite, but the action scenes are impressive.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A good martial arts action film. It’s a revenge film that reminds one of Death Wish (1974). Gordon Hessler (“Girl in a Swing”/”Scream and Scream Again”/”The Golden Voyage of Sinbad”) directs from a screenplay by the 50-year-old British actor James Booth, who also plays the sadistic villain.

Akira Saito (Shô Kosugi) lives a sedate life and works in Yokohama, Japan as an executive for Yokohama foods. The family man has an attractive wife, Aiko (Benz) and two nice kids, Takeshi and Tomoya (Shane and KaneKosugi). Bored by his dull life, his wife, whose father was American, convinces hubby to move to the U.S.. They land in the slums of Los Angeles and take over the run-down Sabine Street Restaurant, in which they rename it Aiko’s. They get the property from a kindly elderly man, Sam Green (Parley Baer). Even though the newly-transplanted Japanese family in the hard, business is tough. They were unaware that local gangsters have been using their back room at the restaurant as a drop off and pick up spot for illegal drugs.

The bullying inter-racial kid street gangs pick on the immigrant kids, and dad uses his ninja on them to teach them a lesson. When a valuable diamond necklace is missing, the diabolical American gangster head, Limehouse Willie (James Booth), thinks it is the new immigrant in town, Akira, who took it. The immigrants family is under attack by the gang, and half are hospitalized. With his wife badly beaten and in the hospital, the gentle Akiro uses his ninja skills and weaponry to ruthlessly take down the gang.

The story is trite, but the action scenes are impressive. Though no match for the top-level Hong Kong martial arts films, the pic is watchable.