Sunday, January 05, 2014

Ninja: Shadow Of A Tear

Director Isaac Florentine (U.S. SEALS II) took his crew to Thailand to shoot NINJA: SHADOW OF A TEAR, the 2013 sequel to Nu Image’s impressive direct-to-video NINJA. More skillful, exciting, and fun than most action movies that get nationwide releases on 4000 screens, NINJA: SHADOW OF A TEAR (let’s just call it by its working title: NINJA II) really deserves to be seen by more people than will ever track it down on Netflix or Redbox.

Picking up not long after the events of the first film, NINJA II finds Casey (Scott Adkins, hiding his natural British accent) now running the Koga dojo with his pregnant wife Namiko (Mika Hijii briefly reprising her role from NINJA). Life is pretty good until his serenity is shattered by a mysterious assassin who destroys his perfect life and sends him reeling to his friend Nakabara’s (Kane Kosugi) dojo in Thailand. The murderer, who uses a nasty bola-like weapon made from barbed wire similar to a flying guillotine, strikes there too. Nakabara suspects Goro (Shan Sugata), an old enemy of both his father and Namiko’s father, the former sensei of the Koga dojo who was murdered in NINJA. So it’s off to Myanmar for Casey to enact revenge.

Just to be frank, NINJA II is better in every way than NINJA, which is a pretty good movie itself. The sequel has better lighting, more exteriors, a higher budget, a more mature storyline, more judicious use of CGI, and action scenes even more spectacular than those in NINJA. Adkins has more to do as an actor as well. Not to overstate his abilities, but he’s certainly more charismatic than a lot of actors making their livings in action roles, and he handles the dramatics well enough. What Channing Tatum has that Adkins doesn’t, I have no idea. Of course, Adkins has the perfect muse in Florentine (NINJA II is their sixth movie together), who knows exactly how to shoot Adkins’ physical skills to the film’s best advantage.

Kosugi is the son of ‘80s action icon Sho Kosugi, who starred in Cannon’s ninja trilogy, and, as a child, appeared with his dad in several films, including REVENGE OF THE NINJA and PRAY FOR DEATH. NINJA II is a fine showcase for him too, as Florentine gives him a whopper of a fight scene to perform. He and Adkins work well together, putting the cap on one of the finer action movies of its time. As usual, Florentine proves himself a master of this particular art form, shooting the fights and stunts in long masters so we can see the performers work and only cutting when he needs to.

1 comment:

Jack Badelaire said...

I watched Ninja 1 a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it; a great version of those straightforward, no-frills but highly entertaining Ninja/Martial Arts movies of the 80's.

Ninja 2 was definitely more of the same goodness, but as you state, elevated to a higher level. Great fight choreography, non-stop action (I think at one point I was timing it at a fight every 5 minutes...), without any of the usual "fat" of a Hollywood action film that bloats or otherwise needlessly slows down a movie like this (Statham, I'm pointing at you here).