• Ninja

    Released by: First Look Studios
    Released on: 3/2/2010
    Director: Isaac Florentine
    Cast: Scott Adkins, Togo Igawa, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Mika Hijii
    Year: 2009
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    The Movie:

    It’s not surprising that director Isaac Florentine’s Ninja feels like a throwback to the Cannon Films ninja movies of the eighties, particularly when you consider that one time Cannon alumni Boaz Davidson co-wrote and produced the picture. In fact, Florentine cut his teeth early in his career with Desert Kickboxer, a 1992 film co-produced by Menahem Golan, so the ties run fairly deep here. Considering that the film is showing up under the Nu Image banner, considered by many to be the successor to Golan and Globus’ eighties powerhouse production house, you can see where the inspiration for this entertaining and action packed no-brainer came from.

    The film stars Scott Adkins as Casey, the son of a Marine stationed in Japan who was entrusted to the care of a local dojo when his mother fled for New York and his father committed suicide. The lone Caucasian in the entire school, he has never the less excelled under the tutelage of his Sensei (Togo Igawa) and even drawn the eye of his hot daughter, Namiko (Mika Hijii). Unfortunately, Masazuka (Tsuyoshi Ihara), the other top student in the class isn’t down with whitey and when he sees Namiko making doe eyes at Casey, he tries to kill him resulting in his expulsion from the school he has dedicated his life to.

    Masazuka swears revenge and gets it when he assassinates the Sensei while Casey and Namiko take a trip to New York City to try and find Casey’s estranged mother. Masazuka has also started working as a rogue assassin for Temple Industries, an oil conglomerate that is actually a front for some sort of bizarre cult bent on taking over various competing oil companies and killing whoever gets in their way. When Casey and Namiko are considered the prime suspects in a rash of murders plaguing the city, the cops come down on them but Casey’s training has made him a formidable opponent and Masazuka has given him every reason to use is and on top of that, he’s got a lot of rad weapons he’s just waiting to unleash.

    While the acting may be flat and wooden throughout and there might be logic gaps big enough to drive a train through, Ninja does what it does quite well, and that’s deliver massive doses of fast paced action and loads of gratuitous violence. CGI is used regularly throughout the movie but much of it actually compliments the action rather than takes away from it and most of the stunts appear to have been done with actual people rather than bytes and pixels. As such, the action has a lot of impact, and Florentine and company do a really good job of capturing it. The film isn’t over stylized or edited for the ADD crowd, rather it lets us appreciate the physicality of the performances.

    The martial arts in the film are impressive and hard hitting. Don’t expect fluid wushu style graceful movement, rather, we’re treated to some hard hitting hand to hand combat that borders on brawling, but it works. While some might take issue with a ninja using a gun in a couple of scenes, this isn’t a film intent on staying within the realms of tradition, or for that matter, reality so it’s easy enough to shake that off. Ultimately, yeah, it’s kind of dumb but damn if it isn’t a whole lot of fun.


    Ninja hits Blu-ray in a surprisingly good 2.40.1 AVC encoded 1080p anamorphic widescreen high definition transfer. Contrast and shadow detail render some of the darker scenes a bit messy but this is the exception and not the rule. Generally the picture quality is very strong, with good facial detail present on all of the performers and plenty of texture and visual minutia present in both the foreground and the background of the image. Color reproduction is strong and flesh tones look lifelike and natural. There aren’t any problems with obvious compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement and the source material used for the transfer certainly appears to have been in very good shape as there are no problems with dirt, debris or print damage to note. All in all, this disc looks quite good, especially when compared to other low budget action films on the same format.

    The English language Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track on this release is a strong and active one, really bringing you into the movie with a lot of well placed and entirely appropriate directional effects and impressive surround sound action. The sword play and shoot out scenes sound great, with plenty of strong bass punctuating the action and plenty of activity all throughout the surround channels, but the quieter moments have some nice atmospheric ambient noise as well. Bass response is strong when it needs to be while dialogue is always clean and clear. The levels are perfectly balanced and there are no audible defects here. Really, there's nothing to complain about in terms of this very well put together and very aggressive and active mix, the movie sounds great. An optional Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is also included, as are subtitles in English SDH and Spanish.

    Aside from a fairly simple menu screen, there is a standard definition trailer for the feature provided alongside standard definition trailers for a few other First Look Studios releases such as Triangle and The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans.

    The Final Word:

    Ninja doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to because it provides pretty much everything fans of b-grade action films want. The plot moves things along nicely and the action scenes and fight choreography more than make up for whatever massive logic gaps there might be. First Look’s Blu-ray may be light on extras, but it looks and sounds far better than most will probably expect, making this a perfect hour and a half of high quality, mindless escapism.