And as soon as I heard that a super duper ninja sword had the power to not only kill your ass dead, but also to revive your dead ass, I was confident that White Ninja’s lady would surely get killed in the end only to be miraculously resurrected by MegaBlade in the waning moments of the film!
And when the opening credits announced that all these shinobi shenanigans were made possible by Nu Image Films, I was positive that hundreds of starving Bulgarian stuntmen would be getting a good work out by being shot, stabbed, and thrown out of subways! Oh, and I also knew that I would freaking love all of it!
In an ancient ninja tradition dating well back to the 1980s with Franco Nero’s Enter the Ninja and Michael Dudikoff‘s American Ninja series of flicks, Ninja is all about the titular mysterious Japanese mercenary and stars a white dude.
Scott Adkins plays Casey and he brings the two things required to the role – a shredded bod and an instantly forgettable screen presence that never gets in the way of his ability to kick guys in the face in slow motion!
Casey’s mom abandoned him and his father was a drunk who ended up killing himself so Casey enrolled at the local dojo at the age of 12. His rival, Masazuka, surely violates some ninja code when he teases Casey about his crappy family origins, but really runs afoul of the head of the dojo when he turns a simple stick fighting training session into a full on sword fight where he tries to kill Casey! As any kid who ever got busted carrying a switchblade to his elementary school will tell you, that will get you expelled. Even ninjas have to abide by the Safe Schools Act!
Time passes and while Masazuka turns into a hitman for hire, Casey’s dojo needs to name a new leader. Masazuka interrupts the ceremony and this causes the head of the dojo to send the school’s treasure chest of old school ninja gear to America with Casey and his hot daughter for safe keeping. MegaBlade is among the goodies in the trunk and no one wants Masazuka to get his hands on it.
It’s a plan stupid on so many levels that there must be some secret ninja strategy behind it. From where I’m sitting, the last two people in the world you would want to send the box with are the two people that Masazuka’s has the biggest grudge against. And won’t he be suspicious when he comes back to the dojo to steal the box and it and those two are gone?
But most confounding of all is that if the box of deadly goodies isn’t safe in a school inhabited by a whole army of ninjas, then where would it be safe? And why in the hell should that ninja school even remain open if it can’t defend itself against one former student?
There is a method to this madness though because it allows the film to dramatize the invasion of the dojo by Masazuka while he’s decked out in his jacked up modern ninja gear, complete with night vision goggles! Guys get chopped and impaled and even beheaded! Heck, Masazuka even throws in some poisoning complete with taunting for good measure! But Masazuka is too late as MegaBlade is no where to be found!
Can even Masazuka’s ninja super powers overcome this seemingly dead end? Of course they can! Along with his night vision goggles, his ninja gear also includes his regular old eyes! And they can read the caller ID on the dojo phone that gives the name and number of a guy in America! A guy who must have MegaBlade! Why? Well who else would be calling the dojo at that time of night right during the middle of a war to find MegaBlade!
While the convenient caller ID clue is an annoying story short cut in league with the perfectly timed phone message and easily located file folder, it is an easily shrugged off poison dart compared to the presence of the secret organization that Masazuka aligns himself with. Those not versed in the many-layered agendas of the ninja will no doubt carp that the organization was silly, pointless, and ultimately caused Masazuka more trouble than it was worth, but that misses the bigger picture. And that of course is that it provides Casey with tons of guys to brawl with and kill! After all, he can’t go around beating up Masazuka for 85 minutes, can he?
Besides its frequently dimwitted and half-hearted story (Casey tries to find his mom, but she died of a stroke and that’s that), Ninja also delivers everything a guy who ever whacked himself in the balls with a kusarigama could ever want!
Director Isaac Florentine (Desert Kickboxer, Special Forces) keeps things moving with his liberal mixing of slow motion, gymnastics, and computer generated trickery to maximize the action, carnage and more importantly, the ninja posing that transpired every ten minutes or so whenever Casey or Masazuka had to assassinate an army of hollow eyed Eastern European extras!
By the time Casey and Masazuka square off at a construction site both decked out in their ninja gear, the ninja movie fan is guaranteed to finally achieve the fudoshin state of mind so revered by the dojo’s sensei and last seen during Sho Kosugi’s Pray for Death!
© 2013 MonsterHunter