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ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Ninja(2009)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Isaac Florentine

Starring:
Scott Adkins/Casey
Tsuyoshi Ihara/Masazuka
Mika Hijii/Namiko
Togo Igawa/Sensei
6 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
Ninja white boy Casey (Adkins) has to protect a box that contains the gear of the last Ninja from his clan. Bitter and vengeful ex clan member Namiko (Ihara) wants the box for himself and he’ll stop at nothing to get it. Let the pummeling begin!
THE LOWDOWN
Hollywood is trying to bring the Ninjas back to hip street and hey I’m not complaining. I love them hood wearing, pajama abusing, shuriken throwing mofos. The first attempt NINJA ASSASSIN had Ninja God Sho Kusuki as the baddie and its heart in the right place but was dragged down by unevenly shot action scenes and a so-so script. So I was looking to the Scott Adkins starrer NINJA (bypassing theaters to land on DVD come March 5th 2010) to take the flame home and solidify the Ninja comeback. Did it happen? Not really but I still got some easy spin kicks out of the damn thing.

I got to hand it to NINJA, talk about non stop motherf*cking action! The bulk of the flick was basically a string of flashy, well choreographed and brutal action scenes – hey I could think of worse ways to spend an evening. As opposed to NINJA ASSASSIN, NINJA got its fight bits right pretty much the whole way. None of that closely shot, shaky cam crap – I saw EVERYTHING and loved every second of it! I’m sure it helped matters that heir to the Van Damme throne SCOTT ADKINS (i.e. Ben Affleck with muscles) was in the lead. No Hollywood tricks needed with that dude, he’s the real deal and every time one of his gravity defying jump kicks would surface, my jaw would drop at the sheer awesomeness that is Adkins talent. That boy’s got some tight ass moves! I heard somewhere that Adkins grew up idolizing Van Damme and you know what it shows. He has the same flair when it comes to making martial arts look eye-candy fly for the screen.

NINJA also benefited from having a stand out villain, Masazuka as played by Tsuyoshi Ihara. I never had seen this guy before, but here, he oozed of menace, intensity and sported decent fighting skills to boot. I couldn’t take my eyes off the lad – genius stroke of casting! If the world is fair (and it isn’t, especially in the film industry), I expect big things for him on the action scene. Finally Isaac Florentine is no stranger to Adkins or action movies in general; his filmmography is all about that jive (Special Forces, Undisputed 2, The Shepherd… with Van Damme and Adkins fighting each other - sweet). He has mucho experience in the field and the result in terms of NINJA was a clipped paced, stylishly shot adrenaline rush with a knack at doing action right on every level: gripping gun fights, hand to hand bits, varied chases, sword fun and even car hopping (yeah you heard up me… car hopping). Give that dude a big budget already! He deserves it!

On the flip side, thank Buddha that NINJA’s subplots didn’t take up much of its screen time. Although I dug the dojo/clan/revenge stuff (classic 80’s vibe) and the “protect the box angle”, I really could have done without the underdeveloped useless cop on the case subplot and the silly, overacting, hooded assholes part of a secret society spiel (shades of the baddies in Avenging Death but dressed like clowns). Moreover, I was half/half on how the Ninjas were portrayed here. As opposed to classic Ninjas (like the ones found in Revenge of the Ninja or even Ninja Assassin) we got new school Ninjas. The bad guy was basically wearing the pre Bat Batman get-up from Batman Begins. He had a Kevlar chest armor, fancy night vision goggles, he used guns (hey…that’s cheating) and even had a cape that he used to glide off a building (I almost hurled when that went down). And the less said about Adkins eventual “off the Wal-Mart rack” Ninja outfit, the better…TACKYYYYY! Lastly the flick suffered now and again due to its low budget (some of the green screen was off), nothing I couldn’t live with but it needed to be thrown out.

On the whole much like NINJA ASSASSIN, NINJA didn’t meet up to the old school gems that are REVENGE OF THE NINJA, PRAY FOR DEATH or even AMERICAN NINJA but it still delivered as a swift and action laced jamboree of guns, flamboyant kicks and crazy sword fights. You gonna suit up and fight this bitch or what?
GORE
We get lots of sword slashes, arterial sprays (CGI again – what’s wrong with squib shots…come on), bullets hits and more!
T & A
Ninja have no time for pussy. The ladies get Adkins ripped like a mofo and shirtless a lot.
BOTTOM LINE
NINJA moved fast, hit hard and executed its actions scenes perfectly. Tsuyoshi Ihara made for a compelling villain and Adkins once more solidified his place in the new era pantheon of action kings. I for one can’t wait to see what he does next. Unfortunately, the Ninjas here didn’t really look or feel like Ninjas, lots of it came off cheesy and some of the subplots didn’t do it for me. But again, hardly any time was spent on them; it was all about ass kicking, hence ALL GOOD! Worth a look if you crave an effortless action party!
BULL'S EYE
Writer/director Michael Hurst (Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud) had a hand in the script.

Scott Adkins first lead role was in in Special Forces (2003).

Tsuyoshi Ihara played Nishi in Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima (2006).
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