Some of you may remember a particular action movie subgenre from the ‘80s: the ninja movie craze. The B-Movie producing team of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus brought us many an unbelievably silly film, wherein the story’s protagonist (usually portrayed by a white guy so American audiences would watch it) would wind up going toe to toe with the deadly antagonist (usually Japanese) in the film’s finale. Sure, many people have tried since the ‘80s to forget having ever taken part in the craze, but none can ever forget the immortal words of actor Shô Kosugi in Revenge Of The Ninja: “Only a ninja can stop a ninja!”
Well, for those of you who once lovingly basked in the fermented-smelling glory of Golan-Globus’ martial arts epics, you’ll be pleased to know that the spirit of cheesy ninja flicks is alive and well in Ninja. The film, one of the seventy-kajillion low-budget pictures made in Bulgaria every year, stars British-born actor Scott Adkins (the new Michael Dudikoff) as Casey, the proverbial white guy raised in a dojo by his sensei (Togo Igawa) and his fetching daughter, Namiko (Mika Hijii). Casey’s archetypal rival throughout the movie is the fallen ninja trainee Masazuka (Tsuyoshi Ihara), who becomes an assassin-for-hire for an evil underground organization known as The Ring (led by a particularly hammy Miles Anderson).
The entire movie is cast with overactors and underachievers. Subplots are dropped at a moment’s notice. Copious amounts of CGI blood spray about and vanish without a trace. Our main heroes, despite having grown up with the day-in/day-out training and wisdom their sensei provided them, can’t seem to develop a little common sense when an army of Russian-looking thugs come-a-callin’ (e.g. our heroine, Hijii, who spends a small portion of the finale bound in rope — a little something for the bondage enthusiasts, perhaps?).
The list of flaws goes on and on, but one of my (subtler) favorites would have to be the obvious stock footage spliced in with the bits filmed on Bulgarian sets (which looks like it was used over and over but from different angles). All of these fine moments (and more) are meant to be taken seriously — instead, they all stand out like, well, a white guy in a ninja movie. However, these are the very reasons I enjoyed Ninja: it’s a swift-moving and thoroughly brain-dead flick that is an ideal candidate for a night in with your friends and a couple of stiff drinks.
First Look Studios 1080p MPEG-4/AVC transfer of Ninja on Blu-ray is better than you’d expect from a low-budget action movie from an Indie distributor. There are many moments in this 2.40:1 widescreen movie (such as the daytime scenes at the dojo) that are surprisingly beautiful, and present a lot of rich texture and detail. The darker scenes on the other hand show some poor contrast, but aren’t too terribly distracting overall — a lack of quality for a movie like this isn’t going to make it any worse, after all.
Sound-wise, we get a choice between an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (the main audio) or Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. Frankly, I found nothing to complain about the main audio track: it came through admirably and, once again, First Look’s presentation exceeded my expectations (well done, guys!). Large white subtitles appear to translate the portions wherein the characters speak in Japanese by default, but the disc also contains English (SDH) and Spanish subtitles.
The downside for some will be the lack of any feature film-related special features. The only bonus items found here are some previews for other First Look releases, including Triangle, Command Performance, Suicide Girls: Guide To Living, and Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans.
Long story short here: Ninja is a fun no-brainer film. Put it on your list for Bad Movie Night.