Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Years after Michael Dudikoff made his last ‘White Guy Ninja’ movie, the genre has made a triumphant return with Scott Adkins, a cat who is long overdue in getting a chance to headline one the many mindless action flicks he show up in with ‘Ninja’. We missed you White Guy Ninja, now go show those Asians how this thing is supposed to be done.

After a brief lesson on the history of the Ninja we shoot into a Dojo where our Sensei (Togo Igawa) is holding court with his charges. Sensei has two prize students, one being our hero Casey (Adkins) who has one set of skills that he excels at, with his other prize student being Masuzaka (Tsuyoshi Ihara) who has a completely different set of skills that he excels at. Sensei also has a super cute sad eyed daughter named Namiko (Mika Hijii) who has a little bit of sexual tension going with our western Ninja hero in training. Now everybody in this Dojo seems to be totally cool with the white guy ninja except one hater, with this hater, not surprisingly, turning out to be completely hateful Masuzaka. So hateful is Masuzaka that during a simple training session he actually tried to off the white guy ninja which gets the man unceremoniously drummed out of Ninja school. So if you thought Masuzaka was a hater before, you should see him now.

Years later Sensei is preparing to step down and name a new clan leader who we assume will be Casey, but not so fast my friends because during the ceremony our dojo gets an uninvited visit from one former, very angry ninja student, and current professional assassin for hire in Masuzaka. Masuzaka is laying claim to the cherished Ninja baubles which represent the history of this ninja clan and has sworn on the blood of every single person in the school that they will be his. Taking this threat deadly serious, Sensei dispatches Casey and his hot daughter to New York City to secure these heirlooms. Now the fun starts because an evil corporate cult who Masuzaka does his killing for hire, as a favor to Masuzaka, has dispatched wave after wave of Bulgarian extras to kill Casey and grab Namiko to secure these heirlooms while Masuzaka himself makes his way to New York. But first Masuzaka has to pay a brief visit to his old Sensei and his squad of incredibly poorly trained ninjutsu students.

Things get are getting pretty hairy for Casey and his pretty sidekick as the Bulgarian extras keep coming, the New York City cops led by FCU favorite Todd Jensen are getting in the way, and Masuzaka has touched down in the big city and has murder on his mind. Just remember that one of our crack ninja students was forced to leave school a little early and might not have picked up on a lesson two. Keep that in mind.

With Isaac Florentine directing, Scott Adkins starring and Todd Jensen supporting, not to mention Tsuyoshi Ihara who will always have a special place in my cinematic heart ever since he played the male lead in Gamera’s glorious return to the silver screen, it would be difficult for me not to get some serious entertainment value out of Ninja and for the most part it gave me what I was looking for in a white guy ninja flick, even though it didn’t quite live up to the lofty expectations I had for it going into this movie.

I’m thinking that everything that you might want in a Straight to DVD action movie helmed by Isaac Florentine is there in spades as the body count is sky high, the blood flow is plentiful, the action is fast and furious and the storyline makes just enough sense to keep our action movie humming smoothly, but never gets too complicated to have us thinking too hard too long. Mika Hijii made for a better than average damsel in distress because she was Ninja too, which allowed her the opportunity to kick a little ass here and there, but of course our ninjette wasn’t tough enough to avoid capture requiring a dashing rescue. Another thing, though this is more of an observation than anything else, is that all of the principle Asian cast members were Japanese, unlike the recent ‘Ninja Assassin’ movie which had multicultural actors just pretending to be Japanese.

Unfortunately the main problem that I had with ‘Ninja’ lies with its star Scott Adkins who really didn’t seem all that comfortable in the skin of a leading man, as opposed to when I’ve seen him playing badass heavies where he seems really at ease. When it comes to doing crazy athletic stuff, kicking ass and walking around without his shirt on, outside of Adkins co-star in Undisputed II Michael Jai White, you’d be hard pressed to find anybody who does this better than Adkins can, but outside of the martial arts action, Adkins didn’t bring a whole lot of energy to the actual character he was playing. I’m not looking for the guy to turn Casey into Richard III or anything, but he was one pretty subdued cat when he wasn’t in the process of kicking somebody’s ass.

But that’s kind of just nitpicking a little bit because we didn’t go into ‘Ninja’ expecting an intense character study. While it would’ve been nice and probably would’ve made for a better movie if Adkins had spiced up Casey a little bit, the core of ‘Ninja’ still delivered plenty of action, plenty of violence and plenty folks getting stuck in the head with throwing stars and that, for the most part, was good enough for me.

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