The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ninja (2009)

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This film came out the same day as Bitch Slap, so naturally, it was somewhat lost in the shuffle. Only somewhat, mind you, because I would've hit it sooner had it been available to me, but I didn't get on it quick enough and other people had it out at Netfix. Anyway, the combination of Scott Adkins and director Isaac Florentine, reunited after a great run in Undisputed II, just seemed very promising.

Ninja is about a ninja dojo in Japan that has two outstanding students: Casey (Scott Adkins), an orphan of a dead drunk American serviceman, and Masazuka, a guy who thinks Casey is unworthy of their sensei's praise. Anyway, Masazuka is kicked out of the dojo for attacking Casey, and he wants his revenge in the form of taking back the dojo's prized possession: a big fancy looking trunk filled with ninja weaponry. Casey, the sensei's daughter, and a couple other dudes travel to the States to hide it, and Masazuka follows them, employing a secret organization of angry Slavic white guys that he did a hit for to try and obtain the trunk. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you how this wraps up, with a showdown between Adkins and Masazuka.

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I don't know where to go with this one. I want to be harsh and scold it for not having anywhere near enough action, or for giving us a hero in Adkins who's awesome, and then tarnishing his awesomeness by having him run from the baddies until like the hour mark, when he finally kicks ass. If-- and this could be a big if, because I didn't see any indication of this on imdb-- if they are using Ninja as the first in a series of Scott Adkins ninja movies, and this one was just him coming into his own as a warrior, I'm good with the running away. If not, then that was a waste of Scott Adkins.

Even if his character was just coming into his own, there were still plenty of missteps. In one scene Adkins is handcuffed to a table at a police station. Instead of just picking the lock like all the other ninjas do, he has to break the desk he's chained to. Come on people, no matter how green a ninja he is, he should be able to get out of handcuffs better than that. The bad ninja, Masazuka's, outfit was ridiculous. He looked like the Guyver, which would be great if he was supposed to be the Guyver, but he was supposed to be a ninja! And he was using night vision goggles. Ninja's don't use night vision goggles! From the way they laid out the opening, I was expecting something in the vein of the Golan-Globus style 80s ninja flick, and this wasn't even close.

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Don't take this as an indictment of Scott Adkins as a potential DTV action star, because nothing could be further from the truth. This guy was great, and had the film focused on his great fighting, instead of having him run away so much, it would've made for a much better film. I hope this is only the start for Adkins, and he does do a series of ninja films-- or even just more action films. Even though this is the fourth film of his we've reviewed, Shepherd: Border Patrol, The Tournament, and Undisputed II being the other three, this is the first where he was the lead, and when he was allowed by the film to be the lead, he did great. Not only that, but with a lot of our great action stars in their fifties going on sixties, Adkins isn't even 34 yet, so he's a solid candidate to have the torch handed to.

I didn't show a picture of the guy who ran the secret organization of Slavs that the evil ninja turned to for help, because this guy was one of the worst Poor Man's Lance Henriksens I've ever seen. I mean, Lance Henriksen's not so great to begin with, but then to try emulate him, that's even worse. Who knows why the people making this couldn't get the real Lance Henriksen-- I mean, it seems like everyone else can-- but once they couldn't get him, the worst possible thing they could do was get someone else to act like him. You either have Henriksen or you don't, and when you don't, move on.

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This film was shot in Bulgaria, but this shot looks like New York City, so I'm assuming they used file footage and mixed it in, which is fine with me. Anyone who's been rocking with me for a little while probably knows that I have a thing for spotting McDonald's in movies. I think this is the fifth one, after Direct Contact, Hardwired, The Keeper, and American Ninja V. I know, I'm a little nutty with that kind of thing, but McDonald's is just a guilty pleasure of mine. I didn't see a McDonald's in the Tokyo file footage they used, but I did see a KFC, so that was kind of cool.

I guess I would give this caveat before I recommend it: for an 88 minute film, there's more downtime than you'd imagine. Towards the end, it really hits its stride, but for me, as a self-professed connoisseur of this kind of thing, it needs to hit its stride at the five minute mark if it wants to be truly great, and this one just didn't do that. Worst of all was the film makers forcing our hero, Scott Adkins, to run away from the baddies for a good portion of the film. Even Franco Nero in Enter the Ninja didn't do that.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1182921/

13 comments:

  1. YEah, Ninja did take a little while tog et going, but once it did get going it was pretty damn good, and Issac Florentine is one hell of an action director, you really oughta check out SPecial Forces, which is eaisly one of top ten favorite DTV films of all time. So while this film definitely isn't as much fun as Ninja Assassin, it's still a decent timewaster, you want another great ninja film, then you should check Mask Of The Ninja with Casper Van Dien.

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  2. I guess this one is trying to bring back Ninja movies, same as Ninja Assasin did a while back, but its just not working. I guess people just dont take Ninja's so seriously anymore.

    Or maybe these Ninja movies that have been coming out arent really that good. Ninja Assasin was fun, but it was not an excellent film.

    McDonalds in movies heh? Theres a whole sequence in The Fifth Element were this futuristic cops stop on their flying cop car and buy a couple of big macs in a futuristic Mc Donalds restaurant!

    Also, maybe you should check out a terrible film called Mac and Me, it has this whole ridiculous sequence where the alien walks into a Mc Donalds and dances with Ronald Mc Donald. This one ranks pretty high in my "worst movies ever made" list. Its the kind of movie you cant believe was made! Hey, maybe you should try reviewing that movie, it was straight to dvd (cause it was so bad...really you have to see this movie to believe how bad it is, it reaches Troll II anbd Rock and Roll Nightmare levels of badness!

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  3. No, this film was great...Not on the level of say American Ninja 1-2 and Revenge Of The Ninja but pretty damn good nonetheless.

    Did you see Ninja Assassin with Sho Kosugi that was very gory and pretty fun but that one wasn't even as fun as this.

    If it's directed by Florentine it can't be too bad...

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  4. Ah Mr. Kenner, it has always been interesting to me that we both have the same feeling about Ran: that we can't believe it's 160 minutes long because it's so compelling theer's never a dull moment; yet you seem to have a much grater capacity to handle downtime in action films than I do. The Silencer is another case of this. I actually found an explantion for this in a bad infomercial I saw after I fell asleep watching TV. They were talkling about Max-Interval training, where instead of doing short bursts of workouts with a long layoff, you flip the graph, and do large periods of working out with smaller breaks.

    See, I need my action films to be like Max-Interval training: large periods of action filled with small bursts of inactivity. Ninja couldn't do that for me. Maybe I have really bad ADD, but again, I had no problem enjoying 160 minutes of Ran. An amazing last 30 minutes with a few bright sopts before it doesn't make for a great film for me.

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  5. As far as Isaac Florntine goes, I'll check out Special Forces, but I can't imagine him doing anything better than Bridge of Dragons. I do need to cover Ninja Assassin, just to do it.

    Mac and Me was actually in the theater. I didn't see it, but I remember it being there. According to imdb, it made like $6 million. I do remember The Fifth Element scene, though. I probably should review Super Size Me, really. It's funny how many people tell me I should watch that when I tell them how much I love McDonald's, and I'm like "I own it! It's not like I eat McDonald's every day!"

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  6. Yeah I don't like too much downtime either, but if the action that IS there is done well enough, then i'll be able to forgive the film, and in case of Ninja, the action was DEFINITELY worth the wait. You want a boring film with lots of downtime though, try Hard Luck with Wesley Snipes, which is one of WORST pieces of dogshit i've EVER seen, why Kenner liked that film I will never know. Snipes looked bored off his ass for the entire film, it had the two most pathetic serial killers in movie history and it nearly pout me into a coma with how slow it was, The Marksman, Unstoppable, 7 Seconds, Art Of War II, they were all FAR superior to Hard Luck in EVERY way, hell even Art Of War III was better then that godawful excuse for a film! And i'll be honest, i've NEVEr seen a Kurosawa film, because ot be honest i'm not really big on historical epic films(Braveheart didn't do anything for me) they just bore me to tears, ESPECIALLY Titanic, god I hated that film!

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  7. I don't know man...Hard Luck was no great shakes but it still wasn't nearly as dull as The Marksman.

    Actually I have yet to see a Snipes movie released STV that was any good. I mean I loved the Blade series,New Jack City and Demolition Man and enjoyed Rising Sun and Art Of War 1 so it's not that I don't like Snipes. Unstoppable is probably his best STV work.

    Hard Luck was just a weird movie, it was one of those movies that was more bizarre than anything else. You had the serial killers played by Cybil Shepherd and some Asian guy, you had Snipes dodging mobsters, and them accidently bumping pathes and Mario Van Peebles doing god knows what and Luiz Guzman as a gay director of porn films for reasons I have no idea about. I have no idea really on what they had in mind and so I understand why you would not like it, I personally didn't like or hate it, I was just like "What the hell?"

    The Marksman though is what storms your theory on appreciating movies with too much downtime, cause this movie bored me silly. Actually this film was all downtime period so maybe not. Ninja and The Silencer had more interesting plots and as for The Silencer I ended up getting engrossed in Dudikoff and Elliot (the FBI agent)'s training montage, and plight after which Elliot is set up as a patsy. Go figure.

    Meanwhile as far as Florentine goes, Special Forces was okay it defintely doesn't trounce either Bridge Of Dragons,Undisputed II, Cold Harvest and Shepherd Border Patrol. Just so you know. It's about on par with Special Forces.

    Also the lack of downtime would also explain why I liked Replicant, Wake Of Death (You kind of liked this one), and Until Death. That said I couldn't stand Hard Corps and Second In Command. Who knows...How it works.

    By the way I recommend Highlander 1, mainly because it made only 5 million at the B.O just slightly more than I Come In Peace... It's one of those that hit the big time. Actually all the Highlanders weren't very big in theaters, indeed Highlander 2 was the most profitable probably because people had high expectations after 1.

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  8. I'm going to have to see Hard Luck no matter what, because of the Snipes factor, but thanks for the heads up.

    As far as saying Kurosawa's only about period epics, nothing could be further from the truth. That would be like saying The Beetles only do Rock N' Roll songs like "Can't Buy Me Love." Not only that, but comparing Kurosawa to Mel Gibson is like comparing The Beetles to Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds.

    Kurosawa's oeuvre spans genres, from Japanese feudal action films like Yojimbo-- which has been mimicked and recreated as many times as "Yesterdays" has been covered"-- Film Noir like High and Low and The Bad Sleep Well, and introspective dramas like Ikiru.

    As far as his historical epics, Ran, and Throne of Blood are not Titanic, they're Shapkespeare's King Lear and Macbeth set in feudal Japan, and are compelling masterpieces. To say you wouldn't like Seven Samurai because Titanic bored you to tears is like saying I wouldn't listen to anything The Beetles did because Carrie Underwood's new album didn't do anything for me.

    I don't know what everyone else thinks, but I know from my own experience, if you haven't seen anything by Kurosawa, you're missing out. It just so happens what would've been his 100th birthday just passed, so it would be as apt a time as any to start discovering one of the greatest directors of all time.

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  9. I think everyone else pretty much hit the nail on the head as far as this picture is concerned: not enough action, too slow in getting going... I had high expectations for this one, and Adkins showed a lot of potential here. Hopefully he will really get it down with Undisputed III. Liked it for what it was, but it's not going into the ninja canon anytime soon. I hate to admit that I enjoyed Ninja Assassin more than this, too... And you're absolutely right, Matt- Florentine will never top his 'Seventh Seal', Bridge of Dragons.

    On an unrelated note, I'd love to read your thoughts on the live action 'Blood: the Last Vampire' someday (I loved that one).

    To not have seen a Kurosawa film and call oneself even a casual movie fan, hmmm... I don't know what to say to that, I'm speechless. :(

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  10. Well the fact is I have no interest in seeing a Kurosawa film and probably never will no matter how many people tell me how great of a director he was, his films jsut don't really look like my type of film, if you think they're masterpeices that's fine with me but if I don't have an interest in seeing something then chances are i'm probably not going to check it out. See I don't feel the need to watch films that are almost universally praised if they don't raise my interest, having someone tell me how amazing a film is isn't enough to make me want to see it. I see fils that look appealing to me regardless of how many positive or negative reviews they receive. Oh and I wasn't ocmparing Titanic to Kurosawa, just saying most historical films(espeically ones that are nearly 3 hours long) don't interest me no matter who directs them, maybe that's becase history was always my least favorite subject in high school. I know you probably think i'm crazy for saying all that, but i'm used to that sort of thing by now, and for the record I don't like The Beatles either.

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  11. I've seen previews for Blood: The Last Vampire on myriad other DVDs I've rented, so I'll definitely check it out.

    Also, best line ever: "Bridge of Dragons was Florentine's Seventh Seal". Even more apt for that metaphor, Lundgren is a Swede. If I was a director, I'd love to make a DTV action remake of Seventh Seal with Dolph in the lead. Of course, he'd have to beat Death in that chess match at the end...

    I would say, Michael, though most of Kurosawa's films probably aren't for you, based on the films you've been suggesting I see, Yojimbo is one you should put on your list. Yes, it takes place in feudal Japan, but it has a 110 minute runtime (not 3 hours), and it is one of the the most emulated stories in movie history. Even films like Ninja, which we're discussing here, borrowed a lot from Kurosawa's films. If you like action films, see Yojimbo, and know where a lot of them got their inspiration. Plus, it's a fun film.

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  12. Also, I wanted to point out quickly that, though I haven't gotten around to reviewing Ninja Assassin yet, my buddy Francisco at The Film Connoisseur did, and you can check it out here.

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  13. Ninja 2 has just come out and it blows this out of the water. It seriously is one of the best DTV films I've seen in a while. Can't wait to read your review of it!

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