Monday, November 22, 2010

Five Reasons you should buy Isaac Florentine's Ninja on Blu-Ray

Ninja [***]

I wrote a review for Isaac Florentine's Ninja about a year ago and it was done in a jokey, snarky, disdainful way. I liked it, but I wasn't quite being fair to it. I decided to give it a little more reverence since I bought it on Blu-Ray. The original review isn't going anywhere but I want what there is to appreciate about it to be brought to light.

1) Isaac Florentine, director of the two Undisputed sequels, numerous episodes of Power Rangers, is a fan of coherent action sequences that display the martial prowess of star Scott Adkins. It utilizes slow motion to great effect as well, there are numerous shots of Adkins doing a backflip and kicking some poor sap right on his noggin in mid-backflip. Slow motion is a tool I've noticed being employed to show people with the bulk of Adkins (and Chilean martial artist Marko Zaror) do something we might normally see a smaller martial artist do. Florentine doesn't believe in wasting the talents of his stunt team so we get clear, concise shots in every location.

2) The editing builds up the mayhem very precisely. From thirty-nine minutes on the action sequences gradually escalate from a subway train smackdown that culminates with one fighter being thrown through a window and obliterated by a train on the opposite track to a police station invasion in which a ninja cuts the power in a police station, and cuts a vicious swath through the police to get to his prey. The hero and villain even briefly find themselves on the same side as they take on the film's extraneous villains.

3) Scott Adkins shirtless in 1080p. This one is mainly for the ladies and some guys I suppose. Adkins is totally ripped, it's not a long shirtless scene but it's very Van Damme-ian in that it is as unnecessary as his splits in everything. Unlike the Undisputed sequels shirtless fighting is not the norm here, but the camera does like its star. On the flipside of the coin female lead Mika Hijii is tied up by the villain using some Japanese bondage knots if you're into that (Gyaku ebi or Reverse Shrimp Tie it looks like). She's also tied up using blue rope which denotes a serious crime.

4) The subway fight allows Mika Hijii to show off some of her fancy martial arts moves, but with a refreshing degree of plausibility. When Hijii gains the upper hand in a fight she only keeps it for about thirty seconds. Sometimes she's lucky enough to dispatch one bad guy but then another pops up to knock the wind out of her. If you're the type of viewer who prefers a woman to struggle admirably while still adhering to the general truism that women are smaller than men and their hits less powerful then Ninja has exactly what you're looking for as it doesn't get to carried away on the issue of women's competence. She's tough, but humble-able and always down for a good tying up.

5) Ninja is a comforting throwback to the action movies we spent our youth watching on HBO. It may not have the nostalgia factor of casting childhood ninja stalwart Sho Kosugi as the villain, but it does exude a competency in action scenes and a complete go-for-broke spirit without sacrificing any of the sheen of a bigger, budget film. Well, except the bad CGI during the film's rooftop fight. The villain also does a really nifty hang-glide/parachute type move that reminds me of Batman. It's awesome.

For eight dollars on Blu, Ninja is definitely worth the investment.

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