American martial arts student Casey Bowman (Scott Adkins) has studied at the Takeda dojo and earned the respect of the Master (Togo Igawa) and his daughter Namiko (Mika Hijii). When Bowman earns favor, jealous senior student Masazuka (Tsuyoshi Ihara) attacks him violently in a fit of anger. Expelled from the dojo, Masazuka vows to return for the school’s priceless legacy in ninjutsu equipment. As Casey and Namiko transport the historic weapons for safekeeping in New York, Masazuka reappears, this time backed by a mysterious secret circle known as “The Ring” and his sights set on revenge on Casey and the entire Takeda clan.
Isaac Florentine directs this DTV actioner, reuniting with his Undisputed 2 star Adkins. Taking a cue from the generally hammy and low budget ninja films which were so popular in the 80’s, Florentine delivers a fairly entertaining and well choreographed action film that relies heavily on the brawny performance by the amazingly skilled Adkins.
No stranger to martial arts fans, Adkins has appeared in roles opposite to Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Western stars like Matt Damon, Hugh Jackman, and Jason Statham. Taking the starring role in this picture, Adkins definitely loses points for noticeably bad American accent and stiff acting. The setup for the entire film is laughably bad, with a headshaking inclusion of the aforementioned “The Ring” cult being a main transgressor. Everything feels ridiculous and despite the best efforts of those involved, the film never aspires to better its DTV pedigree.
The main draw, of course, is the action, and in that respect, Ninja definitely delivers. Adkins is a whirling dervish of kicks and flips that astound despite me being fully aware of his capabilities. Standout sequences include his one man assault on “The Ring” stronghold and his weapon heavy showdown with Ihara’s Masazuka. Ihara himself handles his action very well and credit should be given for his attempt to play the role with all due seriousness. He never appears in any of the truly cringeworthy acting sequences and he fares quite a bit better than most involved. Toku veteran Hijii performs her action with a practiced ease but her slight frame and idol good looks lack convincing impact, especially in her scrapes with thugs nearly 3 times her size. On the plus side, she is able to avoid the damsel in distress syndrome somewhat by putting her character’s skills to use towards the film’s action packed finale.
In the end, Ninja knows where its strengths lay and never attempts to reach farther than its grasp. While more than a little cheesy for its own good, Ninja nonetheless delivers a nostalgic revisit to the days when ninja ran around in cities and their tools were more than ‘theatricality and deception.’ Despite its faults, the action and sheer physicality of Adkins should more than satisfy those looking for mindless fight film.
You may enjoy this film if you enjoyed: Enter the Ninja, American Ninja, and Undisputed 2