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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Rage of Honor

July 10, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Rage of Honor

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #562: Rage of Honor

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that hasn’t thrown a ninja star at anything in years (decades, really) and doesn’t have any interest in trying now because, let’s face it, I’m going to be terrible at it (I’m, sadly, not a ninja), The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and sixty-two, I take a look at the badass action flick starring Sho Kosugi, Rage of Honor, which hit movie theater screens in February 1987.

Rage of Honor


Rage of Honor, directed by Gordon Hessler, is a movie that I reviewed several years ago but, as can happen with things on the internets, seems to have disappeared. So, much like I did with Warrior of the Lost World, I’ve decided to check out Rage of Honor again. It’s a classic Sho Kosugi flick, and with the awesome Blu-ray from Arrow Films still available for purchase (it hasn’t gone out of print, at least as far as I know it hasn’t), Rage of Honor is something you should absolutely have in your life.

Kosugi stars as Shiro Tanaka, a badass agent of the U.S. Drug Investigation Bureau, which is different, I guess, from the DEA. At the beginning of the movie, we see Tanaka and his partners Coleman (Charles “Chip” Lucia) and Ray (Richard Wiley) raiding a party yacht in Argentina that’s filled with hot babes, drugs, and some of the least impressive henchmen in movie history. Tanaka and his team make short work of the henchmen and the party leader (the leader attempts to escape via speedboat, but Tanaka commandeers his own speedboat and chases after him. Tanaka throws a ninja star into the guy’s neck and the guy’s boat then crashes and explodes), but they run into trouble with the local authorities because no one knew that Tanaka and his team were operating in the area. The American ambassador or diplomatic liaison or whatever the fuck he is, played by Gerry Gibson (I think his character may be named Bob Wilson but I’m not entirely sure about that), is pissed that he didn’t know and now has to deal with the aftermath. Tanaka is pissed, too, because he’s tired of taking down drug dealing assholes and then getting hammered by his bosses for doing his job. What the fuck?

After their adventures in Argentina, Tanaka and Ray head back to their homes in Phoenix, Arizona. Tanaka has dinner plans with his hot babe girlfriend Jennifer (Robin Evans) and Ray has leads and whatnot he wants to investigate in Phoenix. Coleman decides to stay in Argentina because he has his own investigation going on there. In the middle of his date night with Jennifer, Tanaka gets a call that Ray is in trouble at a warehouse and he needs help. This call pisses Jennifer off, but Tanaka has to help his partner in trouble. So Tanaka books it over to the warehouse in his sweet as fuck black Corvette, infiltrates the building while still wearing his swanky date night tuxedo, and proceeds to beat the shit out of every dipshit bad guy henchman that gets in his way. Tanaka is too late, though, to save Ray, and Ray dies in his arms. Now, while all of that is going on, the rat bastard bad guy Havlock (a super deranged Lewis Van Bergen) and his remaining henchmen are dumping gasoline all over the place and rigging the building to explode. And that’s what happens. Havlock and his henchmen blow up the building.

So why did Havlock blow up the building? Because getting Ray and Tanaka to the building was his big scheme. It was Havlock’s revenge for Tanaka’s team’s operation in Argentina, and by getting rid of Ray and “the oriental” (that’s what Havlock called him) Havlock’s bosses can continue their massive drug smuggling operation (the operation involves hiding drugs inside gigantic bags of coffee). Taking out people in the way is Havlock’s specialty.

Despite Havlock’s efforts, Tanaka is not dead, and he vows revenge. Tanaka’s honor has been tarnished, and he plans on getting it back by bringing Ray’s killer to justice. Gibson’s character won’t allow it, though. The case is just too sensitive, too important to have a potential loose cannon like Tanaka running wild. So Tanaka quits the bureau, and decides to go “on vacation” to Argentina with Jennifer. Of course, while “on vacation” in Argentina Tanaka plans on hooking up with Coleman and kicking ass. Coleman, at first, isn’t all that interested in Tanaka joining in on his investigation because he knows how upset Tanaka is. Coleman wants revenge for Ray’s death, too, but he also doesn’t want to destroy his ongoing investigation.

So as soon as Tanaka and Jennifer arrive in Argentina they are attacked by various Havlock henchmen. Tanaka takes them out, and right then and there he tells Jennifer what’s really going on with the “Argentina vacation,” and Jennifer decides she’s had enough. Coleman volunteers to take Jennifer with him to Buenos Aries (to a safe house, I guess) as the next part of his ongoing investigation. Tanaka agrees to that arrangement, and as soon as Coleman and Jennifer leave via plane Tanaka starts his own investigation (as you can see, there are lots of investigations in this movie. Lots). Tanaka’s first order of business to infiltrate a warehouse to find out what the heck is really going on. The henchmen inside this warehouse, like all of the previous henchmen in this movie, are barely a match for Tanaka’s badass ass kicking.

While Tanaka is doing his thing, Coleman and Jennifer are kidnapped while flying to Buenos Aries by Havlock’s henchmen. And after Tanaka destroys every henchman in his path, Tanaka is arrested by the local police and put in jail. Havlock’s boss then sends two ninjas to the jail to kill Tanaka, and Tanaka wipes the fucking floor with these ninjas. It’s at this point the possibly named Bob Wilson gets involved. Tanaka is let out of jail, he goes to see Wilson, Wilson tries to hire him back into the bureau, Tanaka declines, but then rejoins anyway because he finds out about Coleman and Jennifer and needs the bureau’s resources to get to Buenos Aries. So Tanaka goes to Buenos Aries.

And, it’s at this point that Rage of Honor kicks things into action movie heaven high gear. The last thirty or so minutes of the movie see Tanaka take on more Havlock henchmen, tribal natives (a big part of the Havlock drug running operation takes place in the jungle, and who lives in the jungle? Tribal natives), even more Havlock henchmen, and eventually a team of commando ninjas that function as a kind of criminal enterprise Special Forces team. These Special Forces ninjas use machine guns, flamethrowers, and the usual ninja gear (swords, throwing stars, claw weapons, etc.). Tanaka fights guys while climbing up the side of a cliff, over a raging river, in the jungle, inside of an open air warehouse (I don’t know what else to call it), in a kind of hatch village area, and then in an industrial boat docking area. Tanaka also fights Havlock twice, one in the river, and once in the industrial area. Tanaka also manages to save Jennifer and obtain an incredibly important floppy disk that’s, well, incredibly important (I don’t remember why it’s important. Everyone wants it, though, so that makes it important). There’s also a big hooha plot revelation towards the end of the movie that explains what’s really going on when it comes to the drug running business. I don’t think you will be surprised by any of it. The plot revelation, I mean, not the insane amount of ass kicking that Tanaka does. That part of the movie is awesome.

That’s a word that you’re going to keep saying to yourself while watching Rage of Honor. Awesome.

Now, there are some weird bits in Rage of Honor that are never really explained/gone over. The first is the U.S. Drug Investigation Bureau. What the hell is that? Why isn’t it the Drug Enforcement Agency? And why wouldn’t the DIB work with local Argentinian authorities while investigating/taking on drug running operations? Wouldn’t Argentina want to work with the United States in dealing with the illegal drug business?

Second, why is Tanaka allowed to kill suspects and whatnot with throwing stars and other ninja weaponry? Are ninja weapons standard equipment for DIB agents? We never see Coleman or Ray use them. Is Tanaka specially authorized to use ninja weapons while on the job? Am I not meant to think about this stuff? Am I supposed to just accept that Tanaka can use ninja weapons as a federal agent because he’s played by Sho Kosugi, a world famous ninja, and the audience expects Kosugi’s character to use ninja weapons? I’m willing to accept it, but I still think it’s weird that no one in the movie talks about it at all.

Third, how did Phoenix, Arizona become such a major drug running operation city? As I understand it, part of the movie was shot in Phoenix, so I do think it’s cool that, instead of having Phoenix “stand in” for New York City or Los Angeles, the movie just admits that it’s Phoenix, Arizona. But why the hell would international criminals want Phoenix to be their base of operations? Why not Tulsa, Oklahoma? Or some small town in Indiana? Did the international criminal element headquartered in Argentina open up a map of the United States and just pick Phoenix because why the hell not?

And fourth, shouldn’t the big deal floppy disk been protected by being in some kind of hard case? It’s a five inch floppy disk, and, as I remember it, those things were fairly brittle. Wouldn’t bending one and getting it wet destroy it? If it was in a case it would have been able to survive all of the shit it goes through.

The action in Rage of Honor is nothing short of exceptional, not to mention very exciting. From hand to hand brawls to gun battles to chases of all sorts, Rage of Honor excels on every level imaginable. Star Kosugi is responsible for choreographing all of the movie’s fights, and he apparently designed all of the cool and weird ninja weapons. Who does that kind of thing nowadays? My favorite action sequence is the final warehouse sequence, where you see everything the movie has to offer in the action department in one section. Kosugi’s Tanaka jumping over a speeding vehicle and dropping a grenade into the vehicle is an amazing thing to see.


Kosugi is awesome as Shiro Tanaka. Tanaka is a special government agent and, as a result, Tanaka is more of a James Bond type spy character than a ninja. Tanaka uses lots of ninja weapons for some reason, but that just seems to be something that Tanaka does. Kosugi also uses guns more than in any previous movie up until that point, which is a little disconcerting at first because, really, why would human weapon Sho Kosugi need to use a gun for any reason? He’s Sho Kosugi, man. At least he uses a .45 magnum and not a wimpy looking .38. A .38 is fine as a backup weapon, but as a main weapon? This isn’t the goddamn 1960’s. I do have a question, though, about a scene in the warehouse infiltration scene in Argentina where we see Kosugi’s Tanaka break a guy’s neck. Tanaka doesn’t break the guy’s neck in the heat of battle. It almost seems like he sneaks up behind the guy while he’s sleeping, grabs him by the neck, pulls him out of his chair and up into the air and then breaks his neck. Would the hero of an action movie do that? That seems more like a villain move. Perhaps there’s a brief scene missing right before this neck break where we see what was happening before the neck break?

Lewis Van Bergen is a real bastard as Havlock. The guy just radiates menace, and that’s before we actually see him do anything. When he starts fighting or shooting or being a bad guy, he’s the kind of villain you want to see destroyed immediately. Van Bergen also does a great job being completely unhinged, like at the end of the movie. I have no idea if he actually knew martial arts, but he does a good enough job doing the fighting scenes he’s called to do, and he shows himself to be a viable and credible enough villain against Kosugi.

Robin Evans does a decent job as Jennifer, Tanaka’s girlfriend. She doesn’t get to join in on the action, but she has chemistry with Kosugi and you totally buy them as a couple, so when Tanaka has to rescue her it matters whether or not he can. They were made for each other, man, you don’t want to see that kind of thing be destroyed.

Charles Lucia does a good job as Coleman, Tanaka’s partner. He doesn’t give off the badass vibe and works well enough as Tanaka’s sidekick (the same goes for Richard Wiley as Ray). And Gerry Gibson is such an asshole as the government official that’s possibly named Bob Wilson. You wish that Tanaka would just kick him in the face. I’m pretty sure that that’s what Gibson was going for.

Rage of Honor ends rather abruptly. There’s no final sequence where we see the survivors walk off into the sunset. The movie probably should have had one of those scenes, but at the same time I like the decision of just ending the movie when Tanaka triumphs. That really is the most important thing. Tanaka winning. Everything else is secondary.

I love Rage of Honor. It’s a top notch action flick from the 1980’s, and one of Sho Kosugi’s best performances. I wish he had been offered more movies like Rage of Honor. Of course, I also wish that Kosugi had made more ninja movies, too. The world should have more Sho Kosugi movies is what I’m saying. Sho Kosugi is, was, and always will be awesome. And Rage of Honor is awesome. It’s a true blue action classic.

See Rage of Honor. See it, see it, goddamn see it!

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 60

Explosions: Multiple, big and small.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A big boat party in Argentina, lots of drugs and hot babes in bikinis and whatnot, dancing, debauchery, a police raid, multiple instances of shooting and hand-to-hand fighting, gun up the butt, serious ass kicking, attempted speed boat escape, speed boat commandeering, speed boat chase, ninja star to the throat, exploding boat, mass arrests, date night at swanky restaurant, a pearl necklace, ongoing investigations, a pocket watch, of screen hot metal poker torture, a sweet as fuck black Corvette, slow motion throwing a guy into a vat of water, slow motion jumping and flipping and gun shooting, ninja star to the neck, door slamming, exploding warehouse, a karate demonstration, a hotel in Argentina, people talking in the hotel common area, a hotel room attack, impromptu gymnastics, guy getting thrown out of a window, strangulation, a big hooha cocktail party, metal pipe attack, neck breaking, brief henchmen beating montage, glass bottle throwing, a sword vs. big hand blades fight, a nasty punch to the balls, multiple smoke bomb attacks, small and thin nunchucks, thin nunchucks stabbing hooey, slow dancing, serious booze drinking, ninjas, ninja jail attack, cyanide, a chopper ride, crossbow hooey, tribal native attack in the jungle, arrow to the gut, spike to the neck, exploding ninja star, bow and arrow attack, a guy slides over a wire suspended above raging water, a serious feat of strength, a tree branch ass beating, a red machete, off screen jungle torture, tripwire hooey, attempted giant wood spikes to the chest, a hand to hand brawl in water, water to the face, rock throwing, attempted drowning, multiple ninja commandos, rocket launcher attack, exploding village, ninja commando with a flamethrower, serious machine gun hooey, multiple grenade attacks, a high jump over a vehicle with grenade dropping, exploding jeep, circular saw blade to the throat, a high fall, LAWS rocket hooey, multiple throwing star attacks, ninja sword throat cutting, sword fight in the dark with sparks from clanging sword blades, a hand to hand beating, crowbar to the balls, a blood trail, a great “guy stabbed while trying to hide behind a door when sword is thrust through the door” bit, presumed drowning, and an abrupt ending.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Trans World Entertainment logo, Argentina, Sho Kosugi, the U;S Drug Investigation Bureau, Sho Kosugi carrying a gun, .38’s, Sho Kosugi using ninja weaponry as a federal agent, Phoenix, Arizona, car phone, Sho Kosugi taking his girlfriend out on a date to a swanky restaurant and wearing an equally swanky tuxedo, Sho Kosugi picking up the check, drugs hidden in bags of coffee beans, someone saying “the oriental,” guy lighting a cigarette via a hot piece of metal, Sho Kosugi pissed off, a plane landing, Sho Kosugi and his girlfriend walking into a hotel, a Sho Kosugi gymnastics stunt double that doesn’t look anything like Sho Kosugi, a 5 inch floppy disk, talk of “Japanese honor,” a native dancing demonstration, Sho Kosugi jumping over a barbed wire fence, Sho Kosugi breaking a guy’s neck for seemingly no reason at all, a double apple slicing in mid-air, Sho Kosugi in jail, Sho Kosugi picking a lock with a big mechanical pencil that turns into a knife, Sho Kosugi beating the shit out of ninjas in jail, Sho Kosugi using a compass, grappling hook hooey, Sho Kosugi kicking ass in the jungle, ninja commandos, a ninja commando using a flamethrower, Sho Kosugi flying a helicopter, Sho Kosugi jumping over a vehicle and dropping a grenade into said vehicle, Sho Kosugi picking up random bits of metal on the ground and using them as weapons, Sho Kosugi running away from an explosion in slow motion, Sho Kosugi beating a man with bare hands, and an abrupt ending.

Best lines: “Regulations?,” “I like pain. That is, I like inflicting it,” “Who did it, Ray? Who did it?,” “Bureaucratic bullshit!,” “You’re looking for revenge! No. Just honor,” “You think you’re good? You think you know it all? You think brute strength is all you need to be a master fighter?,” “I know this is none of my business, Shiro, but you’ve gotta let this thing go,” “What’s the point? What can you do about something that’s already been done?,” “I love you. But I can’t live like this. You’re going to have to make a choice,” “It’s just so complicated,” “Are we in Rio yet?,” “Get me the twins!,” “Sayonara, Alan,” “Shiro! How good to see you!,” and “Nice to see you, Tanaka.”

Rating: 10.0/10.0





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Things to Watch Out For


Belzebuth: I just reviewed this terrific new horror flick (check out that review here), which is available on Video On Demand, Digital HD, DVD, and Blu-ray now (it will also show up on Shudder eventually). If you’re a big horror movie fan you definitely need to see it. It’s full of surprises, incredible tension, and messed up stuff (there’s a scene in a hospital that will make you gasp. It really will). Modern horror icon Tobin Bell is in the movie, playing a part you don’t expect him to, and Joaquin Cosio is a force of nature as an emotionally damaged cop that has to investigate some truly horrendous crimes. Easily one of the best new movies I’ve seen this year.


Blood and Money: This appears to be a new low budget action thriller starring Tom Berenger. I guess, with the apparent ongoing success of the Sniper franchise that Berenger is now a full on, bonafide low budget movie guy. I’m okay with that. Anyway, based on the pretty decent trailer for the movie, Berenger plays a badass military veteran and avid hunter who, while on a hunting trip in a remote part of the woods, ends up doing battle with a gang of vicious criminals who are looking for a missing duffel bag of money (a bag that Berenger’s character finds). Definitely worth a rental, just to see if it kicks as much ass as its trailer suggests it does.


Proximity: This appears to be some sort of new low budget sci-fi action flick about a NASA scientist that is abducted by aliens, no one believes him when he says he was abducted by aliens, and then the government comes after him because that’s just what always happens when you’re abducted by aliens and you can apparently do weird stuff now. Or something like that. The fine folks at Shout! Factory and its Shout! Studios imprint are releasing this, so you know that, even if the movie stinks, the home video presentation is going to be amazing. This is another rental, just to see if it’s as cool as it seems in the trailer. We haven’t really had a good alien abduction movie in a while. Is this the first new good one?


The Cannon Film Guide Vol.1, 1980-1984 by Austin Trunick: I just started reading this excellent book that chronicles the movies produced by the legendary Cannon Film Group from 1980-1984. Trunick provides plenty of background information on each movie, alongside a review of the movie in question. There are also plenty of interviews with the various people involved. There are two more volumes in the pipeline, with Volume 2 set to dig into the movies from 1985-1987 (that book will likely come out in 2021) and volume 3 1988 until the end (I assume that book will show up in 2022). Be sure to check out the book’s official Facebook page here for updates and whatnot.


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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Rage of Honor

Sho Kosugi– Shiro Tanaka
Lewis Van Bergen– Havlock
Robin Evans– Jennifer Lane
Charles “Chip” Lucia– Coleman
Richard Wiley– Ray Jones
Gerry Gibson– Wilson

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Gordon Hessler
Screenplay by Robert Short and Wallace Bennett, based on a story by Robert Short

Distributed by Trans World Entertainment, MGM Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, and Arrow Video.

Rated R for violence and language
Runtime– 92 minutes

Buy it here