The key to making a ninja film resides in this concept: if you can't make it good, make it bad. Its a simple concept that works quite well for a film like "Ninja". These guys know exactly what they wanted to create with this film and they did it. The film isn't good, oh hell no, but its hard to say that it wasn't a fuck-ton of fun and solid 80s cheese even in 2009.
Casey was an American orphan raised in a dojo of ninja in Japan. (Best opening line ever for a synopsis). His dedication to his training has lead him to be one of the top students despite the hatred of his rival in the school. When his rival gets his ass booted from the dojo for being a dick, he vows to take vengeance and earn the spot as leader of the dojo. This of course comes to a head when he returns as a political and ninja for hire and comes to take the sacred armor in a box that would make him leader of the dojo. Its up to Casey and the daughter of the sensei to hide the armor in America and stop this crazy ass ninja before he kills them all.
Let's admit it now. The story for "Ninja" is the most cliche over used story in action/martial arts film history. Hell, the makers of this film must love the 80s so much that they even threw in a subplot of occult oil barons (what they worship at "The Ring" is beyond me and never explained) that gives it even more awesome 80s cheese. Pile some awful acting and ridiculous plot motions into this ninja themed car and you're ready for a road trip down 80s bad movie making lane. I hold no judgments on this film for knowing how awful it is and building on that. I found this, despite its poor craftsmanship, a great way to spend the evening.
Once the action starts though it pretty much never lets up (who needs dialogue?!) and that is the definite highlight for the film. Scott Adkins is a born and bred action star if I ever saw one with his awful attempts at acting, charming good looks, and ridiculously awesome stunts and action scenes. This film knows what one watches it for and it just happens to be how awesome one man can be at kicking ass. Which he does solidly for about two-thirds of the film. The choreography is pretty sick here (which happens to be the one misstep from the overly better and still just as bad at the same time "Ninja Assassin") and highlights some great moments.
If you are looking to have a fun time with some of your friends and need a bad movie to tide you over on a rainy afternoon, then "Ninja" is perfect for that. Its awful on most things, but its so bad that its hard not to find it a fun and charming experience. The choreography is solid and Adkins needs to be in more movies where he says little and kicks a lot. This is a modern day 80s ninja flick that's a perfect partner to "Ninja Assassin".
BONUS RANT: This film has one of the WORST title cards of all time. When you spell the 'A' in "Ninja" with a throwing star in a font that looks like it was a flunk out homage to "3 Ninjas" than you know you're in for a great time for the rest of the movie. Of course, its only natural that it also shows up at the end of the film along with one of the dumbest plot twists of all time. Damn this movie just knows how to do it all wrong...in all the best ways.
Written By Matt Reifschneider