A silent warrior. A lethal mission.
Back of Blu-ray:
It remains as true today as it did in the days of the ancient Samurai. The weapons of the Ninja hold legendary powers for both good men and evil. The deadly weapons of the last Koga Ninja have now been entrusted to an American Ninjitsu student studying in Japan. Commanded by his Sensei to return to New York and protect the weapons at all cost, he must defeat the skilled Yakuza assassins hunting him and prevent the power of the weapons from falling into evil hands.
Ninja movies are the best and this year we were treated to two excellent ones - Ninja Assassin, with boy-band frontman Rain and Ninja movie staple Shô Kosugi, and the similarly themed Ninja starring Scott Adkins. Both have similar revenge and escape plots but one is more true to the late 70's / early 80's style ninja movie. If you can't tell by the logo above which one that is, you're reading the wrong blog. This one was also produced by action favourites Nu Image, responsible for most of Dolph Lundgren's recent output as well as the latest Rambo movie and The Expendables.
The movie starts with ninjas at a dojo practicing their art, including Scott Adkins as token white guy Casey. Adkins we learn ended up in Japan as a child when his parents were killed and he ended up being raised and trained at the dojo. He is the most trusted student of the sensei and as we can see by various stares between the two, the rival to Masazuka (Tsuyoshi Ihara). In the opening credits we are shown the Yoroi Bitsu, a chest that contains the weapons and armour of the last Koga Ninja, and some cool flashbacks of the weapons in use centuries ago.
Masazuka has a go at Casey about his parents. Casey tempers his anger when his sensei tells him to be calm, so Masazuka and Casey have a bout instead. Masazuka takes it too far though and mid-fight switches his training staff to a sword and lunges at Casey. Sensei has had quite enough by now and banishes Masazuka from the dojo. The guy blubbers like a little girl and is on his way.
The scene changes to Valdivostok where a merger is about to take place and signed in a theatre, for some reason. Before the deeds can by signed, a friggen ninja comes out of no-where and slaughters everyone. The techniques in Ninja are similar to Ninja Assassin, particularly the gore effects, but they are not as over-the-top - though we still get a knife to the head, a sliced throat and a decapitation. In a boardroom a guy with a cigar says "there will be no merger." It appears we have a Ninja-for-hire, but who could it be?
Back at the dojo, sensei is hosting a presentation to announce his successor. Masazuka swaggers in looking like a modern-day yakuza representation from a Seagal DTV movie. He demands what is 'rightfully his', the Yoroi Bitsu. Sensei obviously tells him to get stuffed. Worried about what Masazuka will do, sensei orders Casey and his own daughter Namiko to take the Yoroi Bitsu to New York to a safe hiding place. That evening Masazuka returns in his complete ninja getup and slaughters the dojo guards before confronting sensei. The lights go out but Masazuka has uber night-vision powers on his ninja helmet! Masazuka shoots sensei with a poison dart, then, when sensei refuses to divulge the location of the Yoroi Bitsu, cuts his head off.
Scott Adkins totally brings it in this movie. I am yet to watch the Undisputed movies (I am waiting to get the first one with Snipes before I sit down and watch the whole trilogy) so I am not sure how he goes in those, but in Ninja he is pretty awesome. Once in New York and after hiding the Yoroi Bitsu casket, Casey and Namiko are attacked by thugs from a local sect (headed by the boardroom cigar guy from earlier). They shoot the place up and Casey's host and friends are killed, but he and the girl manage to escape. Now on the run and presumed guilty of killing his friends, the two must both protect the casket and avoid the thugs from the sect. Not only that, but Masazuka is in town and also after them and the casket.
There's a few good action scenes before the inevitable final fight between Casey and Masazuka. The two get chased onto a train by the thugs from the sect and Adkins goes absolutely bananas with his fast martial arts. He beats up half the guys and breaks some arms, and even throws one through a (closed) window, perfectly timed so the guy is impaled on an incoming train on the opposite line. Namiko also holds her own (the daughter of a sensei, so of course she has skills) and takes the rest of the guys out with the crutches of another passenger! At the start of the third act in the flick, Masazuka catches up with the two and defeats Casey on a rooftop, escaping with an unconscious Namiko by - get this - revealing his WINGS just like friggen BATMAN and sailing to the ground! Amazing. Adkins also gets a Van Damme style six-on-one fight with guys from the sect, ending with taking out the cigar smoking guy (he's in the crazy getup in the photo below). The final fight with Masazuka is great, and Adkins gets his hands on the contents of the Yoroi Bitsu to help him.
I really enjoyed Ninja. It felt far more old-school than Ninja Assassin. The gore is more restrained but is still there, and the kills are just as sweet. In fact I think the more subdued gore makes for a tighter movie with more reliance on Adkins fighting skills eventual swordplay. They are both great movies, but I think Ninja just has the edge. Another win for Nu Image.
An excellent quality Blu-ray from Australian newcomers All Interactive. Sharp and clear widescreen video that represents the filmed aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and a thumping DTS-HD surround soundtrack. The movie is in English but there are a few scenes in Japanese and the subtitles were fine.
Please note that the screenshots in this review are from a dodgy download version (I can't screen capture Blu-ray video) that is for some reason in full screen 4:3 aspect.
eBay for $14; a very cheap new-release Blu-ray.