Ninja
R1 - America - First Look Studios
Review written by and copyright: Andreas Petersen (21st March 2010).
The Film

For as long as I can remember, I always felt that no matter how bad a movie is, it was always salvageable if there was enough gnarly and ridiculous gore. A movie can have flaws, bad plot, poorly written characters, but as long as Iím getting an on-screen beheading, Iíll watch your damn movie. After viewing "Ninja," I may have grown up just a little bit. "Ninja" proved to me that no matter how much cartoony violence a movie may have, it canít rest solely on such a hinge. "Ninja" has beheadings, sword kills, arms getting cut off, etc, etc. Normally, that is all I would need to enjoy a movie called "Ninja," but here, it did absolutely nothing.

The film follows the story of Casey (Scott Adkins), an American who has grown up in some sort of ninja training camp. He and Masazuka (Tsuyoshi Ihara) are in line to inherit the school when their teacher passes away. Masazuka doesnít like the idea of the school falling into the hands of an outsider like Casey, so in a fit of rage, the student attempts to kill his competition during a training exercise. This violates some ninja code, and he is expelled. He becomes an assassin for hire and comes back to take some magical weapons he wants, so Casey escorts them to a university in New York. As the story progresses, Casey is chased by some sort of Wall Street cult, and that is literally about it.

The main problem with this movie is that it is completely devoid of any sort of interest or likeability. Casey is a guy, but thatís about it. Masazuka is a bad guy, and thatís about it. Masazuka wants what Casey is guarding. Thatís about it. When they fight, they swing swords around, and thatís about it. Great martial arts movies have inventive fights that use the environment (just about any Tony Jaa film), have interesting characters (just about any Donnie Yen film), or have Jean-Claude Van Damme in it (just about any Jean-Claude Van Damme film). "Ninja" has none of these things, no matter how hard Adkins attempts to channel Van Damme.

And then thereís a complaint of a whole different color. I have no proof, but I have a sneaking suspicion that "Ninja" was a movie created after someone saw an early work print of "Ninja Assassin" (2009). Both films have similar characters, similar plot elements, similar love interests, similar visual style and effects, and similar titles. Both deal with the European underworld. Both have slow-mo fight sequences. Both disappointed me greatly. "Ninjaís" lackluster production values leads me to believe that this was some sort of quick cash-in, akin to the rip-offs from Asylum Studios.

In the end, this movie was overall similar to the main characters. Uninteresting. It was there. I watched it, and after I finish my review, I doubt Iíll ever revisit it, let alone think much about it. The movie is like one of those ninja smoke bombs. It appears, and itís over, and itís gone forever.

Video

"Ninja" is presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, and while trying to sound as little like a broken record as possible, this picture was just bland, bland, and bland. The colors are muted, allowing for nothing to pop off the screen. Thereís a constant grain present throughout the film that reminds me of early attempts at DVD authoring (Iím looking at you "Pulp Fiction" (1994) DVD from 1997). I could always tell what was happening on the screen, but I never cared. Youíd think that a movie with this much blood, fire, and nighttime battle scenes would try a little harder. But then again, maybe they just didnít want anyone to know how laughably bad the special effects were.

Audio

"Ninja" is presented in an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio track, and is perhaps the most remarkable thing on the DVD itself. Iím not saying itís anything special, but the audio mix presented here is suspiciously competent. The big action scenes never really get any sort of special treatment, as I never once heard the whiz of a ninja star behind me, or an explosion shake the foundation of my home theater system, but it was the more quiet scenes that had me mildly impressed. The ambient and background noise present in moth scenes made otherwise forgettable moments somewhat immersive.
Optional subtitles are includes in either English or Spanish.

Extras

"Ninja" comes with nothing beyond a few trailers. Below is a closer look.

A theatrical trailer for "Ninja" is included, and runs 1 minute and 1 second.

Bonus trailers are for:

- "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" which runs for 2 minutes and 32 seconds.
- "Lost City Raiders" which runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds.
- "Suicide Girls Guide to Living" which runs for 1 minute and 9 seconds.
- "Triangle" which runs for 1 minute and 41 seconds.

Overall

The Film: D- Video: D Audio: C+ Extras: D- Overall: D

 


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