You can understand how films like Ninja are often overlooked. If you are not into the joys of bad cinema it can understandably seem like a bizarre idea to watch a film that is universally canned. These films are by nature, utter garbage and it is usually quite obvious from the moment you pick up it’s case. Crappy cover designs, no big name actors and a blurb that seems vaguely desperate to make it seem good.
At a glance most people will return these to their position on the shelf and find something worth their money. Dave M however, found Ninja in a sale bin for $8. Based on a price like that people, like myself who enjoy these badly made abominations, expect a certain caliber of film and there are a few prerequisites it requires to land in the “so bad it’s good” genre. The problem is Ninja holds out as an alright action film. Sure, there are a multitude of faults and flaws, but unlike the usual titles found in our Forgotten Films section it has a bunch of reasons to rummage your local DVD store and buy a copy. This put me in an awkward position. The film fits oddly right on the line between a terrible action flick and a gem of the dark musty sale bin. So after much internal debate and a closer look, I left it in Forgotten Films and look at it as a great example of a good-bad film.
As far as story goes it’s probably the film’s weakest part. The plot is so simple it feels like the kind of brilliance that would win high school story contests. White American boy is abandoned in Japan and is taken by locals to a Dojo (which if 80s films have taught me anything are like their version of orphanages) where he trains to be the best he could be before giving in to steroids, like all great athletes, to fill in the rest. Ok, I may have made up that last bit but if you watch the film you will see what I mean. After a rivalry between our hero and the Sensei’s son reaches a violent conclusion, the son is cast out and exiled from the Dojo.
Years pass and as the hero continues his training, the son instead enrols into Bad Guy School and after passing with flying colours he returns to steal the Dojo’s prize armour. Surprise, surprise our hero must stop him.
I know this isn’t prize winning writing but in the 80s I settled for a lot less and this can really be said about the whole film. The action is top notch, boasting some incredible martial arts sequences that are impressively well choreographed and some decent stunt work as well. Add to all this Japanese film legend Togo Igawa who adds an almost unnecessarily good performance as the Sensei and you have a movie that seems to have more positive than negative.
As I said earlier in the review, this film needs to be looked at as a video nasty. If you can look at it with an understanding that it will not give you deep meaning or great characters and if you take it based on it’s budget price tag. What you will be rewarded with is simple, stupid fun that is worth every dollar.