NINJA

USA 2009  Directed by: Isaac Florentine Story: Boaz Davidson Written by: Michael Hurst, Zaki Rubenstein   Produced by: Boaz Davidson, Danny Lerner, Les Weldon   Cinematography: Ross W. Clarkson  Editing: Irit Raz  Music: Stephen Edwards  Cast: Scott Atkins, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Mika Hijii, Todd Jensen, Togo Igawa, Garrick Hagon

Here’s a good example of how to get a contemporary ninja movie right. Different from NINJA ASSASSIN that did an awful lot awfully wrong NINJA shows some tender love and care for its (anti) heroes in black armor. It’s probably true that only a bad ninja movie is a good ninja movie, however, NINJA is indeed also good good, not only bad good.

The story about the conflict between two ninjas who both want to become the successor of their master and his dojo and by the way compete for the only female around (the sensei’s daughter) is not exactly new, but the script works out a lot of details that help make the characters come to life far better than in most other films of its kind (let alone NINJA ASSASSIN); also the story reflects the efforts of the writers who obviously wouldn’t be happy with some basic patchwork that doesn’t do more than providing an excuse for action scenes. Overall the plot and dramaturgy are well done, despite lacking surprise.

NINJA is pretty much condensed intensity, utilizing what’s good about ninja films while improving the usual weaknesses as far as conditions allow. Amazing how much of everything NINJA compresses into its 90 minutes and how it manages to be much for many: genre extravaganza, thriller-drama, balls-to-the-walls action film, splatter fest. Combine all that and there’s very little left to wish for, also thanks to the actors who are doing a good job also beyond the fight sequences.

Finally NINJA features good choreography, bearable wire-fu, dedicated cinematography with some stunning visuals, solid editing and a thriving soundtrack. The film cannot hide its cheap locations at times, but as it keeps us interested in the story and characters we wouldn’t want to bash on this or other aspects of production value too much as it shouldn’t be that relevant for the audience.

Isaac Florentine delivers a fine movie with no seriously distracting flaws ranking somewhere on the very upper end of the B-scale. What’s irritating though is that the bad guy was featured in all marketing measures, not the hero, and that he indeed wears the cooler outfit and has the smarter moves. Never mind. NINJA may not transcend its genre, but it definitely makes for a worthy addition.

J.




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