In David Foster Wallace’s classic modern novel “Infinite Jest”, main character Hal Incandenza’s father is an avant-garde filmmaker, and one of the movies he makes features two different stories. Rather than converging towards the end, they get further apart; I think Mr Wallace may have been watching the films of Godfrey Ho before he wrote that particular section.
Connoisseurs of the “Hollywood DVD” 4 films in one box releases, which seem designed to be found on car boot sales or in charity shops, as well as readers of our other Ho reviews, including “Ninja Squad” and “Ninja Terminator” – which feature no squads or terminators, respectively – will recognise the structure. Richard Harrison’s section of the movie has him as the most successful criminal/banker in Shanghai, whose partner Ronald is murdered by the evil Tiger Kwok; Kwok works for a guy whose name I didn’t catch, but whose “real” name is Bruce Stallion, surely the most badass actor name of all time. Harrison then goes after the group responsible for Ronald’s murder, who he knows because he won all their property off them at the beginning in a game of cards (a weird poker variant? One of those card games like canasta they always seem to play in Euro-thrillers? Who knows?) To kill these guys, he dresses up in a camouflage ninja outfit, except for the last fight when he wears black for no reason. Every fight is the same – short, boring, and accompanied with Harrison removing the face-covering part of his outfit, in exactly the same way, at exactly the same time.
Anyway, all that represents maybe a third of the movie; the other two-thirds is the Tiger Kwok part, and here’s where things get a bit odd. The link between the two sections of the movie is “Ronald”, who is the head of a large crime family, and there’s an internal power struggle, plus another gang who want to take over their turf. Tiger Kwok, despite being one of Ronald’s lieutenants, killed him because he’s a mole for the other guys; we’re supposed to be rooting for Ronald’s daughter Phoenix, I think, although it’s pretty hard to tell.
“Ninja Dragon” is absolutely packed with stuff. Double-crosses happen with alarming regularity, hit squads for one gang get ambushed by the other gang, funerals are invaded, people are kidnapped, and super-tense meetings are held. The main man is Dragon, Phoenix’s trusted “muscle”, a cool, sharp-suit-wearing killer who maybe, just maybe, was intended to be the star of the original version of the movie (he’s not a ninja, though, despite the title). Checking the time when I thought there was maybe 10 minutes left, it turned out we were only halfway in, and there was a ton more action after that part too (Dragon’s final fight with the baddie boss was pretty decent).
Feels weird using a complimentary word to describe a Godfrey Ho movie, but there you go – this film will absolutely not bore you. The word you’re looking for is “confuse”. Harrison’s main villain, a mulleted white guy with an English accent (hurrah to the drunk lunatics who dubbed this movie, and hurrah to the even drunker lunatics who wrote the English script), is apparently the boss of the rival gang in the other film, despite it making no sense; Harrison wants the daughter to take over Ronald’s old empire, but doesn’t lift a finger to help her. Plus, it has one of the darkest endings I’ve ever seen – our heroine wins the day and is going to marry Dragon, but the guy she booted out of the family for betraying them (who, to this point, has been the comic relief, sweetly trying to court sister Fanny) walks into the bridal preparation room and just shoots her, dying himself a few seconds later. What the hell? Well, there’s the final Harrison fight to come, but the movie ends with Harrison just walking out of shot and “THE END” coming up, going from the bleak to the abrupt in a matter of minutes.
I’m genuinely amazed at having to say this, but this feels like a standard Godfrey Ho movie. All the main beats are there:
- Richard Harrison in heavy eye makeup and a ninja outfit
- Plot where he needs to get revenge by fighting someone every 15 minutes or so
- Entirely unrelated main story
- Two or three weird attempts to link the two films with a “conversation” between one person from one movie and one from another, never shown in the same shot (of course)
- Extremely dark ending to main story
- Richard Harrison wins his final fight and the movie just ends immediately
It’s either three or four of these godawful things I’ve seen which follow these six steps, and I’m sure there’s more to come (I’ve barely scratched the surface of Ho’s output). There’s method to his madness, sadly.
Rating: thumbs down