Monday, 16 August 2010

Ninja (2009)

Ninjas. whenever you hear the word ninjas you think of sneaky men in black pyjamas, carry big swords and don't get along with pirates. That last one is a scientific fact and  I defy anyone who thinks otherwise. The Ninja has always had a cult status in cinema, particularly martial arts cinema. During the 80's you couldn't move from one shelf to the other of your local video rental store without seeing a ninja film staring at you just begging to be rented and taken home to watched with a few beers and a good curry.

The ninja trend seemed to die a quiet death in the early 90's when the kick boxing fad came along and since then, apart from Japan, there's been very few attempts at bringing the genre back to contemporary action cinema but it would appear 2009 was the year of the Ninja when not one but two major ninja films saw release. The first one was the big budget and completely misunderstood Ninja Assassin (which will probably be reviewed by me at some point), the other is the film I'll be reviewing today which is the lesser know but just as good to watch Ninja, a simple and unimaginative title it may be but it sums up the film's content perfectly.

Raised in the art of Ninjutsu since he was abandoned by his parents as a young child, Casey (Scott Adkins) is chosen to return to his American homeland to protect the legendary Yoroi Bitsu (a chest which contains the weapons of the last Koga Ninja) from his mortal enemy Masazuka (Tsuyoshi Ihara).

The plot is strictly by the numbers but it's just an excuse to cram as much martial arts action into the film as humanly possible. If you're looking for the film which combines intense drama with realistic depictions of the ninja arts then you're going to be very disappointed, however on the other hand if you're looking for a film which has lots of blood spraying and swords clashing then Ninja is right up your alley. That in itself is the film's greatest strength; it knows what type of film it is, what type of audience is going for and doesn't strive to be anything more then what it is. There's an admirable attempt at a romantic sub-plot between the lead actors Scott Adkins and Mika Hijii but it comes off a bit cheesy and predictable most of the time.

The cast in itself is very good given this is a direct-to-DVD action film. Leading man Scott Adkins, who is merely a bit player in big Hollywood movies such as Bourne Ultimatum and Wolverine, has garnered a loyal cult following from his lesser know works in which he has more substantial roles. Movies such as Special Forces, Undisputed II and Undisputed III have allowed him to show not only is he a capable leading man but also an incredible martial artist but Hollywood have yet to realise what an indispensable asset Adkins can be when he appears on screen. Mika Hijii who plays Casey's love interest and fellow ass-kicker Namiko proves she's better then the material given to her as she gives quite competent performances in both the acting and action stakes and she plays off Adkins well in the many dialogue scenes they have. What would an action movie be with a good villain? Tsuyoshi Ihara is clearly having lots of fun playing Masazuka as he gets to wear some pretty cool ninja gear and kill lots of people in different, bloody and stylish ways.

This being a Ninja film it's obvious that the action is the focal point and as I mentioned earlier it delivers in spades. Adkins goes through each fight sequence effortlessly and gets to show off his full repertoire of moves while kicking some serious butt. The fight which takes place in a temple toward the end of the film really encapsulates what amazing skill Adkins has as an action star. The film is already gaining a cult following and that's in no small part to the film's director Isaac Florentine, who's made a name for himself directing low budget action films that have some of the most intricately choreographed action seen outside of Hong Kong. He's one of the few director's to really have a grasp of how to shoot martial arts action on screen and make it look fast, exciting and bone crunching. Something which a few Hollywood directors can't seem to get their heads around.

Ninja is one of the best action movies of 2009 and showcases some breath-taking action and some solid acting. I totally recommend you go out and get this as I guarantee that you will not be disappointed in the least.

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