L.A. Streetfighters | aka Ninja Turf (1985) Review

"L.A. Streetfighters" Theatrical Poster

"L.A. Streetfighters" Theatrical Poster

Director: Park Woo-sang (aka Richard W. Park)
Producer: Jun Chong, Phillip Rhee
Writer: Ji-woon Hong, Jaime Mendoza-Nava
Cast: Jun Chong, Phillip Rhee, James Lew, Rosanna King, Bill Wallace, Ken Nagayama, Frank Marmolejo, Dorin Mukama, Mark Hicks, Loren Avedon, Arlene Montano, Thomas F. Wilson
Running Time: 85 min.

By Barey Gusey

As a child of the 80s, I was a victim of the ninja craze. It was all about buying martial arts magazines and flipping to the mail order pages to check out the latest ninja gear. The only thing that stopped me from actually ordering a crate load of ninja sh*t was the fact that I didn’t have a credit card. Heck, I didn’t even have cash. Still, it was fun fantasizing about owning all those throwing stars, hand spikes, blowguns and ninja swords.

At that time, wanting to be a ninja was a natural thing. Since it wasn’t possible, the next best thing was watching a ninja in action. This meant ninja films, A LOT of them. I don’t know about everyone else who lived the ninja-craze, but when I think of ninja films, I think of the trilogy of those corny MGM titles: Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, and Ninja III: The Domination. For the time, they were solid entertainment, excessively violent and every kid took them seriously. Sho Kosugi, who starred in all of them, was the man. The big question at the time was “Who would win a fight to the death, Sho Kosugi or Bruce Lee?” Sho was my answer. I was 11.

The popularity of ninja films became so immense that movie companies started re-titling chopsockies to make them sound like they were ninja-related. Titles like Ghost of the Ninja (aka Killer in White), Venus the Ninja (aka Fury of the Silver Fox) and the subject of this review, a Korean/American production called Ninja Turf (aka L.A. Street Fighter). Starring a young Philip Rhee (Best of Best series) and many other now-noticeable faces, Ninja Turf was one of those movies that was bound to piss anyone off who gave it a chance on rental. Not only did it have a misleading title, but it’s the best example of a bad film that’s beyond B-movie quality; or should I say below?

As far as filmmaking goes, it really doesn’t get any worse than Ninja Turf. With the exception of Philip Rhee, every single actor/actress in this film couldn’t act their way out of a Don “The Dragon” Wilson flick, and that’s being nice. Every scene (not including the terrific martial arts sequences) was obviously done in one or two God-awful takes. The film also sports some of the most horrendous camera lighting I’ve ever seen. It’s so bad that I’m actually wondering if they used any lighting to begin with… and it doesn’t help that most of the film takes place at night.

If anything good can be said about Ninja Turf, then I’d mention the martial arts choreography, which is top notch. However, some of these scenes are somewhat ruined when the sound of cheesy 1980s guitar/synthesizer music kicks in; not to mention, that good ol’ camera lighting. Ninja Turf also makes a great “Who’s Who” flick for martial arts enthusiasts since many then-unknowns have small parts, like: James Lew (Big Trouble in Little China, Lethal Weapon 4), Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace (Protector), Ken Nagayama (Best of the Best), Mark Hicks (Gen-Y Cops, Terminator 3) and one of my personal understated favorites, Loren Avedon (No Retreat No Surrender II, King of the Kickboxers).

Ninja Turf would also make a great party-film for the sake of laughter. You can call your friends up, get trashed and point out stupid things like:

  • Why the hell does Philip Rhee constantly wear the same preppy sweater throughout the whole film?
  • Why do these guys look like they’re all 30, when they’re supposed to be in high school?
  • Since when do LA gangs use martial arts to fight?
  • Why doesn’t somebody pull a .45, and bang, settle it?
  • Where are the ninjas?

Ninja Turf, it ain’t bad. It’s awful.

Barey Gusey’s Rating: 3/10

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