Isaac Florentine’s Ninja is one such film, and if it wasn’t for the giveaway 2009 date on the poster you could be forgiven for thinking this film was straight out of the 80s, the bastard child of Cannon’s collection of Ninjas in America collection which, in my hazy recollection, made up at least 50% of the space on my local video shop’s shelves.
The main draw on offer is the outrageously chiseled upper body of Scott Adkins, most prominently known as Weapon XI in that X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie of last year, and Florentine’s camera follows every taut, blooming muscle on Adkins’ torso in the early stages of the movie when he, as our main character Casey, trains in slow motion.
I can’t bring myself to recount the plot, suffice to say – Orphaned American, Dojo Rival, Murdered Sensei, Escape to America, Dozens of pony-tailed Henchmen, Ancient Treasure, Ludicrous Fights, Swords, Poison, Death – that sort of thing. You know it, you’ve seen it a million times on static plagued VHS tapes you managed to plunder while your parents thought you were renting Bedknobs and Broomsticks again.
So, given that the performances are outrageously over the top, the plot is stale to the point of moulding, the CG lathering of some scenes done with such little care, why did I not hate this? I found myself in a timewarp watching this. For ninety odd minutes I was back in the 80s with my friends, crowding round the TV as we paused the video on the moment Henchmen number #3’s head was split open by the ninja’s shuriken attack.
Ninja has no pretensions to anything greater than a standard martial arts flick and attempts no originality in fighting set pieces or plot, and what it does, it does fairly admirably. I laughed at it, of course I did, but it was a bizarrely enjoyable film that offers a diverting few moments when you’re halfway through that Bergman box set you got for Christmas.
Ninja is out on DVD on the 15th of March