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.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Ninja II aka Ninja: Shadow of a Tear (2013)
This is a movie that I'd been looking to get to for some time, so when I started doing the DTVC podcast with Jamie, I saw this as a great opportunity to make it happen. On this episode we also had long time friend of the site Karl Brezdin at Fist of the B-List, who has a great site and was a great contributor to the pod. Speaking of friends of the site, our friend Mitch at The Video Vacuum also covered this, so you can go there to see what he thought of this flick.
Ninja II is a sequel to the first Ninja, where Isaac Florentine and Scott Adkins team up again to give us 90 minutes of pure awesome. Adkins's wife, Mika Hijii, is killed by a bad person, and Adkins naturally wants revenge. His revenge leads him to Thailand and the ninja dojo of friend Kane Kosugi. Turns out these killers are linked to a drug ring operating out of Myanmar run by Shun Sugata, which is where our ninja is headed to take care of business so bad that Myanmar is knocked back to being called Burma.
As I said, this is 90 minutes of pure awesome. Jamie loved it so much she watched it twice and put that pic of Adkins from the film beheading the baddie as her Facebook banner. All the complaints I made about the first one were erased. We had no Adkins running away, we had all Adkins as a bad ass performing in great fight scene after great fight scene. There is no shaky cam here, no special effects cheating, just good ol' fashioned well choreographed and well performed martial arts battles. For my money, this is one of the few modern flicks that can take the Pepsi Challenge with any of the greats from the 80s and 90s.
Let's start with Mr. Adkins, because he was perfect in the lead, and perfect as all of our new celebrity crushes. Jamie loved him, and you can see why. He's someone who grew up in the 80s like the rest of us loving the films we love, and as such he brings that kind of commitment to the role, which comes out in the final project. When talking about who might be the head of the next wave to take over after the old guard retires (or we get sick of them!), Scott Adkins needs to be at the top of the list with Michael Jai White. The one thing I think we do need more of though: Adkins with his natural English accent.
Isaac Florentine has been directing great martial arts actions films for some time now, and seeing this I was reminded of just how important he is in keeping DTV action films the way we want them: good fights, well-choreographed and well-shot, and not a pile of shaky cam where we can't see and which is covering up for substandard fight scenes. Isaac Florentine, like Adkins, is a fan of martial arts films, in particular Hong Kong films from the 70s, and that shows in the way his films are done. We need to show these studios that we need more legit directors like Isaac Florentine, Albert Pyun, and John Hyams making these films; that it's not good enough to just throw a stuntman or set designer in for his or her first ever directorial debut, nor good enough to go in after the director is finished and edit the hell out of it. We need to speak with our wallets and support more Ninja IIs.
I want to go back to the discussion on Adkins being the next guard, and really overall the future of the action genre, not only in the DTV world, but also on the big screen. Since the Bourne Identity, where deft split screen edits were used to turn Matt Damon into an action lead, action films have been following suit, making action stars out of non-action folk, most notably now Liam Neeson; but also has allowed older action stars like Steven Seagal and Sylvester Stallone a longer action film shelf life. How does a Scott Adkins break into the mainstream in this environment? He gets a part as the baddie's number 1 henchman in Expendables 2, and that's about the extent of it. Is DTV and Isaac Florentine flicks the best we can do? And on some levels, is that maybe better? I don't know, I think we need to get to a point where we're not just rumoring about Scott Adkins as Batman, but it's a reality.
Among the other stars in the film, as I mentioned above Mika Hijii returns to reprise her role from part 1. It's a very small part, and she gets most of her screen time in flashbacks. I have a hunch that if there's a third one, she'll be back, having used some kind of ninja magic to fake her death. You can't keep Mika Hijii away that long. As we mentioned above, Kane Kosugi plays Adkins's buddy. He's fantastic as well, and like many actions fans, we've been rockin' with him for a long time, since he (and we) were very young in the early 80s and he was in his father's, Sho Kosugi's, films. When talking about Adkins potentially heading the next class of action stars to take over from the old guard, you need to put Kane Kosugi in there as well. His final scene with Adkins was spectacular. Finally, the great Shun Sugata plays the main baddie, and he's fantastic as well. Among the 100-plus films to his credit, the only other one we've done here is Bunraku, but I'm sure readers will know him for a variety of other things, from The Last Samurai to Kill Bill and Ichi the Killer.
Is there any question about where I'm going on this one? It's a must, especially now while it's on Instant. This is one of the best action films, DTV or otherwise, in the past ten years or so. Go check it out, or if you're like Jamie, you can go see it again, it's that good. I want to thank Karl again for coming on the podcast. Remember, you can check him out at Fist of the B-List. And as far as Jamie and I, you can check us out as always live on the DTVC Podcast from 8-9pm Eastern every Wednesday at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit, and download the podcasts not only from our Talkshoe page at http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/134494, but now we're also on iTunes! Just type in "DTVC Podcast" into the search, and subscribe.
For the Ninja II episode, right click here and select "save link as".
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2458106/