From the makers of American Ninja.
This is a truly bad movie, but just like a car crash on the side of a highway you slow down to check out how bad it is. Firstly, to clarify: this is not the David Heavener movie of the same name (aka For Hire). It's a 1993 Nu Image production that proudly claims to be from the makers of American Ninja. I checked all the crew members on IMDB and I couldn't find who the tagline was referring to. It is however from the director of Michael Pare's Merchant of Death, Yossi Wein.
We start off with Dominique (Kathyrn Hill) out in Africa doing an environment study into the acidity of a lake, for some reason. Her boss says it is definitely man made acid then out of nowhere a bunch of friggen ninjas turn up, crossbow her boss in the back, knock off the other workers (including pushing them into the acid-water lake inducing chemical burns) and then a guy in a white suit with a monocle kidnaps her into a helicopter. Elsewhere, Joe (Ross Kettle) is an ex CIA something-or-other who now lives life teaching women how to breathe in yoga. He interrupted when an old CIA buddy comes to tell him his wife (Dominique) has been kidnapped by evil-doers in Africa. He doesn't actually want to help Joe so Joe enlists the help of his long time buddy Pete (David Webb; "Come see Africa he says. Come see your roots."). I love that when asked by customs "Anything to declare?" and they say "Yes, some crossbows.... for.... hunting" that the customs guy just smiles and says "Oh! Hunting! Have a nice trip!".
The pair fly to Africa and check into a posh hotel where we briefly meet the owner who is also a co-kidnapper of Dominique. We then move onto a nightclub where we witness what is, without a doubt, the absolute worst musical number in the history of recorded video. That might be an exaggeration but man, the chick can't sing and her backup dancers are definitely extras from a George Romero movie. They get into a punch up with security and are asked to calm down by the same guy in the white suit and camp accent. There's a few little fights with Joe kicking Ninjas around and Pete shooting them over the course of the movie and they are mostly hilarious. Even Pete exclaims once "Ninjas? With machine guns?!" We also get a pretty lame car chase and a token scaffolding finale battle that ends with a hundred foot drop to his doom for the bad guy.
There's a lot of walking around and people talking for the 15 to 45 minute mark; Pete and Joe doing investigations, Dominique being propositioned by the guy that owns the hotel and is co-holding her hostage, etc. We do get to meet this guy called Ndumo, a black African man that has some insider-knowledge about what's going on and where Joe's wife is, though he meets a grisly end in a car bomb. He's quite funny because he has obviously been dubbed by a middle-aged white man, the only dubbing (I think) that occurs in the movie. At about the 45 minute mark the pace picks up again in a hilarious way as Joe infiltrates the Ninja-base dressed in a stolen ninja outfit and finds all the other ninjas... roller skating. It's almost surreal as Joe stands there in the centre of what looks like a basketball court, the bad guy in the white suit surveying from the rafters co-ordinating the performance whilst the ninjas circle Joe on roller-skates with blades in the heel. It's like a bad ballet and easily the funniest part of the movie.
The plot is so convoluted; it just doesn't make sense. Why did white-suit and hotel guy kidnap Dominique? We are told it is so she can help in making more acid for putting into the water supply because that will give white suit guy 'power'. How? By killing everyone? She's not even let out of her motel room or put anywhere near a chemistry set so what is it she is actually doing? Why are they keeping black slaves in cages? Why did the hotel guy get involved? And then of course there's the big issue of ROLLER SKATING NINJAS IN AFRICA.
There's a whole lot of Nostradamus references in Lethal Ninja and I'm not sure why. The flick starts with a scrolling text of one of his prophecies, his pictures are all over the town and his name is used as a secret code word over the phone. I don't get why they bothered with all this; there is an allusion to his prophecy of water turning into acid and a man from the west saving the world, which I think they are trying to say refers to the poison water and Joe. The poison water turns up again when Joe and Pete sneak into another factory which is totally just a kids water-slide complex, complete with loops and sharp turns that I imagine would be quite fun to slide down if it wasn't supposedly filled with man-made acid.
The back cover of the tape says "An evil force is at work unleashing terrifying Ninja power". These ninjas aren't particularly terrifying, although they do snap a lot of necks (their trademark, apparently). They do successfully make that 'whoosh' sound found in all good chop-sockey flicks whenever they come into view. The real question is, since when were there so many ninjas in Africa? I wouldn't really say it was really Africa's forte.
Recommended for a laugh and not much more, though that being said you should see it at least once. I'm far too lazy to capture the video for this one for screenshots so you are getting the photos from the back of the tape; check out the trailer as well to see more.
I watched the Australian PAL "Entcorp" video as an ex-rental. Quality was really good for a VHS actually, I can't imagine the UK DVD looking any better at all. Runtime stated is 90 minutes but the feature is only 75.
In a bulk VHS haul, about 50c I guess.