Ninja Squad (1986)

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What the hell was that? This is perhaps the laziest film I’ve ever seen, with absolutely no effort made to produce a plot that made any sense, an ending that was in any way satisfying, or anything else that you’d expect if you wanted people to pay to watch the thing you’d made.

Godfrey Ho and Richard Harrison are back – we’ve discussed their careers in our reviews of “Full Metal Ninja“, “Ninja Terminator” and “9 Deaths Of The Ninja” but this one has managed to find new ground below the bottom of the barrel, although I feel like my word might not be enough, though, so I’ll tell you a bit more about it. We start off with perhaps the slowest training sequence ever, as a man and a child very gently swing swords in vague patterns. He then tells the child about the history of the ninja, which is absolutely wrong, and doesn’t even make any sense on their own terms. Richard Harrison, playing Gordon the Ninja, is dressed in one of the most insane getups of all time – a ninja outfit which is a pink-purple colour with silver trimmings, and a headband which says “Ninja” on it. STEALTH!!

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But never mind that, because it’s quickly ten years later, and young Billy’s training is over. Instead of being a stealthy assassin like other ninjas, he decides to support his community by trying to become a cop. So far so ordinary (for Godfrey Ho, anyway), but then we come to the first roadblock, and that is the split storylines.

We’ve had examples of two films stitched together before, but this is different and worse. 90% of the film is Billy and his story, and the rest is Gordon being gradually stalked by Ivan The Red, a rogue ninja. Only Richard Harrison is barely even in any of these sections, so his first billing on the DVD cover is about the same as having “Star Wars” with Porkins (aka Red Six) as the top-listed star. So, Ivan The Red, for reasons never elaborated on, wants to kill Gordon, and Gordon doesn’t want to fight. So ol’ Ivan says he’ll kill another ninja every month until Gordon agrees to the fight, and then just keeps appearing at random intervals in the film, finding ninjas hanging out in clearings, and killing them very easily. Eventually he draws Gordon out, but more on their final fight later.

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Billy has spent ten years training as a ninja. I want you to remember that. He goes home to his shanty-town, where his mother and sister greet him (it looks like they filmed in a genuine shanty-town somewhere too). How they could afford to put him through ten years of ninja training, or why he didn’t think of job prospects before returning, are points sadly never elaborated on. Before he has much of a chance to do anything, though, the local crime boss’s goons have come round demanding their “rent”. Billy fights them off and then the rest of the film is the tit-for-tat of Billy and the crime boss fighting each other – more goons get shot, then Billy’s family is killed (apart from his sister, who’s kidnapped), and so on. Billy spends most of the film shooting people, so it might reasonably be said that his ten years of ninja training are not used to their greatest effect. Or at all (unless you count him beating up a few people).

His adventures seem sort of random – almost certainly because they are. He is asked to help out some timid local guy who has information about his sister – so he goes and rescues a bunch of kids virtually single-handed, then the timid guy turns into a cop and a trusted confidante (well, he has a shoulder-holster in public, so I’m assuming here). Then he wanders around a few warehouses? He saves a woman’s purse after it’s snatched and she offers him a job, but it’s never referenced again. His girlfriend’s father is the chief of police but he thinks all ninjas are criminals, so Billy is having no luck there either.

The ending, though, is what sets it apart from other so-called films. It’s thoroughly…well, I’m not sure, but whatever it is, it’s thoroughly it. Billy goes to a boat reclamation yard (the sole interesting thing in this film is this visual, as characters leap round rusted hulks) for his final showdown with the bad guys. He shoots them all, of course because that’s what ninjas do, up to and including the big boss. When the police turn up and tell him to drop his gun, as it’s all over, you kind of think “okay, it’s pretty dumb but this at least makes sense”. Then the boss, left for dead in the middle of the street, revives long enough to pick up his gun and shoot Billy a bunch of times in the back, killing him! What the bloody hell!?

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Before we have more than a few seconds to process this, cut straight back to Gordon, who’s finally agreed to fight Ivan. He senses that Billy is dead, and Ivan admits to killing him, even though we just saw what happened (oh, and he promised earlier that he’d not kill Billy til after he’d finished off Gordon, but whatever). Ivan is a surprising choice for a ninja master, looking sort-of doughy and going a bit thin on top. So the two ninjas, one in pink/silver, the other in red, have a fight. Ivan has his sword torn from his grasp, but in the next scene he’s holding another, completely different, sword – perhaps he had a spare somewhere. Their fight is short and predictable – Gordon stabs him, job done. But that’s not all – he then does a backflip and disappears in midair! THE END!

I hope this review has given you a flavour of just how odd this film is. To tie two completely unrelated films together, you really need to work at it, and this film almost made a negative amount of effort. The two different stories also don’t make any sense if you just take them separately, so there’s nothing to focus on. It’s mind-bogglingly incompetent in absolutely every way, and manages to commit the cardinal sin of also being boring for a fair portion of its running time. If I’d paid more than 25p for this film, I would have felt ripped off, and I can only recommend you do literally anything else other than watch this film.

Oh, one more thing – there’s no “Ninja Squad” in this film. Gordon makes a point of being a loner, and the only ninjas we meet are all solitary too. “Just Some Ninjas In Clearings” would have been a more accurate title, I feel.

Rating: thumbs down

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