Ninja Dragon (1986)

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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.

 

What hideous monstrosity is that?

What hideous monstrosity is that?

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).

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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:

 

  1. Richard Harrison in heavy eye makeup and a ninja outfit
  2. Plot where he needs to get revenge by fighting someone every 15 minutes or so
  3. Entirely unrelated main story
  4. 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)
  5. Extremely dark ending to main story
  6. 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.

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Rating: thumbs down

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American Ninja 5 (1993)

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Well, that was a strange little series.

David Bradley, star of AN 3 and 4, filmed another, unrelated film about a guy and some ninja shenanigans. Cannon, never ones to pass up an opportunity to make a quick buck, renamed it “American Ninja 5” but didn’t do anything a person might expect, like changing the name of the main character or having it make any sense in terms of the four films that preceded it. That’s how we like em at the ISCFC! Anyway, that makes the American Ninja series perhaps the only example of the same film series having two parts that didn’t tie in to the rest, or each other. Congratulations!

Bradley is Joe (a different Joe to the one Dudikoff played in 1, 2 and 4), who’s training at Pat Morita’s gym! Morita, clearly doing this as a favour to someone, pops up at the beginning to ask Joe to look after his great-nephew Hiro, a sullen 13 year old, then sods off til the last two minutes. As well as having this annoying kid in tow, Joe meets a beautiful woman sort of by accident, only she’s the daughter of some scientist who’s being held by an evil crime fellow, and the crime fellow has a super-powerful ninja as his main enforcer…

Fabulous!

Fabulous!

In a bit of a coincidence, Tadashi Yamashita, the guy who played the bad guy from AN1 is here, as Pat Morita’s assistant trainer, but his credit is as himself? It’s a puzzler, as he doesn’t seem to be that famous. To increase your confused frown as the film goes on, Hiro is played by Lee Reyes, a genuine junior karate champion, and he did most of his own choreography. He’s one of those style of characters that films occasionally fall in love with – the extremely annoying precocious pre-teen who can do everything better than the adult cast. The scene where he’s walking through a city somewhere in Venezuela, crying and begging for random strangers to take him to the American embassy, is a low point even for this series. Anyway, clearly Cannon thought he was a star in the making, although they would seem to have been very badly mistaken on that.

David Bradley learned how to act in the intervening years, and is a decently funny, credible actor in this one. He’s no longer got that rabbit-in-the-headlights look when it comes to being the lead guy in a movie; which makes his seeming complete disappearance from cinema in 1997 slightly sadder than it would have been if you’d only seen AN3.

What did we learn with this movie? Well, we learn that baddies sometimes have their offices, complete with computers and all sorts, just in the open air, near the pool of some hotel. We learn that ninja-ism is hereditary, and you just need to unlock the potential with a short montage. We also learn that if you get bored of being the legal guardian of a kid, you can just fob him off at a moment’s notice on one of your work colleagues while you go on holiday. These are some important lessons, I think you’ll agree.

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Although this film was clearly sorry to see us viewers go, feeling like it lasted for 4 hours, this is the end of the series. Cannon Films are now the subject of a couple of different documentaries which I’ll try and review for you soon; and the world is a bit sadder for having fewer racist lunatics making cheap crappy films to fill up video shops.

Rating: thumbs down

American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (1991)

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Ninjas are actually threatening again! From three films where they were basically ignorable cannon fodder, we come to a film where they appear to have skills and use them to kill people. Hey, it’s a big step! And we also have a moderately amusing attempt to crowbar the last film into this series’ “continuity”!

But the one thing these films never forget is to include numerous moments of staggering technical incompetence to give us all a nice laugh. It’s bookended with them – at the beginning, the Vicar performing a wedding is reading his lines off a piece of paper. Wouldn’t he know the words to the wedding ceremony, which given his age he would have performed hundreds of times? And right at the end, a helicopter is blown up and we’re treated to a couple of seconds of the mangled miniature swinging in the breeze on a string. Thanks, Cannon Films!

Sean (David Bradley), who was a pro karate fighter in part 3, is now a CIA agent, and along with his black sidekick (who’s a mostly non-fighting nerd, because Steve James was not hired for this) they’re sent to exotic location X to stop a Muslim fella along with his British “ex-policeman” friend from sending a suitcase nuke to New York. Along the way, he picks up a love interest pretty much by accident (she’s so immediately hot for his bod I wondered if they already knew each other, but no) and then gets captured and chained up by the Sheikh.

Joe Armstrong (Dudikoff, who never bothered getting any better at acting) is now in the Peace Corps, teaching, and is reluctantly brought out of retirement to rescue Sean, the other special forces guys, and basically bring peace and happiness to the world. And thank heavens! His intensity was sorely missed in the last film, as it was in the first 45 minutes of this one. Strangely, the two apparent great friends Joe and Sean share basically no screen time. Did the actors not like each other? Was it some weird money-saving thing from Cannon? Who knows?

This is the sum total of them sharing the same screen

This is the sum total of them sharing the same screen

So, you don’t need much more from me about this one. You ought to expect what you get from the fourth installment of a low-budget series of ninja movies.You will learn that ninjas can dodge bullets but not throwing stars, which seems ass-backwards, that Joe has developed a Vulcan Death Grip, and that at the end, he walks away in a white t-shirt without a single mark on it, in fact, having taken zero damage throughout. Hurrah!

There’s not a lot technically to say about any of these movies. Cannon were experts at low-budget cinema so all the sound and camera angles are competent and completely uninteresting. The special effects are ropey, but very rarely used. Weirdly, these days they seem much higher-budget than they were, due to the use of proper film and lighting.

Now, onto part 5, which I think will also qualify for unquel status, making this a rare example of a franchise having two non-consecutive films which bear zero relation to what’s gone on before.

Rating: thumbs down

American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt (1989)

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When a main actor doesn’t come back for a continuation to their franchise, I always wonder exactly what happened. Did Dudikoff ask for too much money? Unlikely, as he’s back for part 4. Was he busy? I doubt it. My best bet is, Golan went to Globus, “you know, that main actor guy was showing dangerous signs of charisma in the last movie. Let’s replace him with someone even worse” (real, boring answer: Dudikoff didn’t want to film in South Africa due to apartheid. Good work Michael!).

Luckily, some traditions remain. The title is meaningless, and there’s plenty of technical incompetence for everyone to enjoy (a lot of people stare at the camera in this movie). Oh, and that “teach ninja skills to Westerners and die” philosophy has now turned into “literally everyone in the world is a ninja”.

The one unqualified good thing about this movie is the return of Steve James as Jackson, who had the physique, fighting skills and acting ability to anchor this franchise on his own. Aside from Carl Weathers, I can’t think of another black guy who got to star in his own action movies at the time, and it’s a shame, and especially a shame as Cannon Films never had a single black lead in any of their movies (apart from “Crack House”, which isn’t a good example). In this, while he’s got the same name as in the last two, he seems to be a different person; and no mention is made of the fact he used to be in the army or had a best friend who was also a ninja (in fact, no mention of Dudikoff at all) He’s just a guy at a martial arts tournament.

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Anyway, James has to play second fiddle to David Bradley, the sort of generic action guy who got starring roles in movies thrown at him for a while there. He’s Sean Davidson, a karate champion who’s travelling to…who cares?…for a tournament. Jackson is there too, to take part in the sword portion of the tournament, and the two of them, along with comic relief Dexter, become friends immediately because that’s what you do in these movies.

For a film set at a karate tournament, you don’t really see a lot of it, but what you do see is lots and lots of ninjas, this time led by former child evangelist turned actor Marjoe Gortner (seriously, look his story up, he’s had a pretty weird life) as “The Cobra”. He’s trying to do some genetic experiments, in “we got the script for part 2, changed a few names and the number on the front, and just used it again” fashion; and he infects Sean with some virus or other. Our three heroes have to kick some ass to get the antidote, only it turns out at the end he didn’t need to bother due to NINJA MAGIC

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The message of these films is, anyone who’s reasonably fit will be able to beat the snot out of any 5 ninja, really easily. Their training must be in something non fight related, because they’re complete cannon fodder here, not putting as much as a scratch on any of the main actors. Plus, the training Sean receives as the hands of his adoptive Japanese father is more karate than it is anything ninja-related – and how many ninja decide to supplement their day job with being a pro karate fighter? You see, these are the questions that you will find yourself asking during the course of this fine and exciting movie.

Most of the boring final fight sequence I spent wondering if this qualifies as an “unquel”. Despite a returning actor, and a similar generic action movie plot, there’s really nothing which ties this to the previous movies in the series, which were about a guy in the Army doing ninja things. I think it probably does.

And that’s how exciting this film was!

Rating: thumbs down

PS- Review site Dorkshelf did a whole article about this movie and the downfall of Cannon Studios which you should read – http://dorkshelf.com/2014/02/24/unsung-anniversaries-3-american-ninja-3-blood-hunt/

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American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)

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Although “much better than the first one” is a legitimate thing to say about a movie, it’s not like if you’re the sort of person who’s going to willingly view a film called “American Ninja”, you’ll be too worried about sequel quality. But let’s discover what’s fun about this together!

Oh, hold on, it’s subtitled “The Confrontation”. That’s pretty much described every film ever made! Confrontation is the meat and drink of motion pictures, but I would like to see “American Ninja 5: The Friendship”. But luckily good ol’ Michael Dudikoff wants confrontation and we get to see more of his ninja skills.

Improvement reason 1: fighting
Despite some ropey fight scenes right at the beginning, and the fact the main villain doesn’t appear to have ever seen a sword before, they’re still better than the fight scenes from part 1, with room for improvement in parts 3 and 4 too!

Improvement reason 2: sidekick
Steve James is back as Joe’s sidekick Jackson, and it’s much more of an equal partnership now. Although you’d describe him as a cut-price Carl Weathers, his presence guarantees a good time (he was present in a lot of 80s action movies), and he’s a huge improvement on Dudikoff in the acting and charisma stakes. And I’m sad now, as I discovered when looking him up he’s been dead since 1993, when he was only 41.

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Improvement reason 3: stunts
Lots of jumping from rooftops, but most memorably of all, the ninja who gets dragged along behind our heroes’ car, taking some truly hellish looking knocks along the way. Hope he was alright!

Improvement reason 4: plot
Although the plot is, it must be said, quite similar (Joe discovers a plot involving military people to make money where they shouldn’t), it’s more fun. The location is better (a Caribbean island of some kind, plenty of neon coloured beach wear), the baddie is better (a guy who wants to create a genetically engineered race of super-ninjas) and it all just feels better put together.

Improvement reason 5: comedy
As well as Steve James being great at delivering his lines with a funny inflection, the actual comic relief character is a lot better this time. And with Dudikoff relaxing, a little, everyone around him can be more relaxed too.

There’s still plenty of that low-budget “huh?” factor though. As the camera pans across the super-ninjas, one of the extras clearly lied his way onto the set, because he can’t bend down or do any of the moves, and looks hilariously out of place. The bar described as “the hottest joint in town” without a trace of irony looks like an absolute hovel,. and the way that no matter where they go, they’ll just find a few ninja hanging out on a street corner never fails to make me laugh. The visual of Joe and Jackson fighting ninjas near the beginning is fantastic too, because Jackson is only wearing small red shorts and Joe a surfing outfit.

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So, although it’s still not terribly good, it’s a huge improvement over part 1, and wouldn’t be out of place in the rotation for your “cheesy but fun movie night”, should you and your friends have one.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

PS. There’s a very early variant on our favourite “haha all our friends are dead” and I’ll leave this photo and caption for you to enjoy:

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American Ninja (1985)

USA! USA! USA!

USA! USA! USA!

Michael Dudikoff is perhaps the most 80s of all the action stars. Despite a fairly steady career up to 2000 or so, the only films anyone remembers, at all, are the “American Ninja” series; although 1998’s “Freedom Strike”, co-starring – I can’t believe I’m typing this – Tone Loc, sounds pretty awesome too. Anyway, Dudikoff is probably feeling a little aggrieved he never got a call from the “Expendables” people, and after taking a decade away from acting he’s been making a mini-comeback over the last few years.

But that’s all a long way away to the world of 1985 and “American Ninja”. Dudikoff (how many times was he called “The Dude”, do you think? I’ll go with 10 million) is Private Joe Armstrong, a guy who was discovered unconscious on an island in the Pacific, with amnesia. He bounced around reform schools for a few years before being offered prison or the army, and he picked the army. Sent to the Philippines, he scowls his way round the base before a hijack attempt on a convoy he’s driving in forces him to use his super bad-ass martial arts skills to rescue the Colonel’s daughter.

This was made during, well, probably a few years after, the American fascination with all things martial arts and Oriental. Joe has to fight one of the other guys on the base, Jackson, because he’s a loose cannon who gets people killed, and he does this by not throwing a punch, just using Jackson’s weight against him in a nice basic kung-fu display. The weird reverence the rest of the guys then have for him is way over the top for what he can actually do, but he’s a pretty good fighter all the same.

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If you want something which is thick with good old 80s action cheesiness, then this is the film for you. There’s a plan to steal some stuff from the base which Joe discovers, but who else is in on it? Who can he trust? Why don’t people trust him when, wherever he goes, he kills a few evil ninjas? Was there a reason other than “we need some stuff to crash through” why they had all those fruit stalls on the dock? And how awesome was the scene where the private ninja army was training?

Given that Dudikoff had been acting for a long time before this movie, one would have expected him to be better at it. He stays silent (even when speaking would benefit him) for great periods of the film, and when he does speak he’s got quite a light high-ish-pitched speaking voice, which doesn’t go with his character at all. I mean, it’s not like the rest of the cast is RSC material or anything, but he stands out as weirdly bad. I discover that, far from being a martial artist who converted to acting, he’s a model who converted to acting, his pout at the beginning sort of bearing this out, and then took up martial arts later.

If you think about the ninjas in this film for a second, it gets a bit odd. They wear black to go unseen at night, but if you’re in the jungle in daylight then wearing black is a terrible idea. It’s not a uniform! Chief bad guy ninja has a laser, which is a fantastic weapon but not traditionally part of the ninja’s arsenal; oh, and the explanation for how Joe gets his ninja skills when it’s forbidden on pain of death to teach them to a Westerner is so obvious they might as well have hung a sign round the guy’s neck. There’s a whole thing about ninja magic, and light / dark side nonsense too.

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Alright, it’s not very good. Dudikoff looks way out of his depth, the plot is cheesy, the bad guy’s accent is so bad as to almost be a deliberate joke, and the fights scenes aren’t anything to write home about. But…even though this is a thumbs down movie, if you’re in the right frame of mind you might enjoy this. Cannon Films, run by Golan and Globus, specialised in this thing and it all runs smoothly and fairly quickly. Wow, that sounds like damning with faint praise, eh? Picture that DVD cover – “Runs smoothly and fairly quickly” – Mark, ISCFC.

Rating: thumbs down

Youtube Film Club – Death Code Ninja (1987)

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YES! THIS FILM IS AMAZING!

I could well leave this review there, but I want to share its magnificence with you. If you’re a fan of the cut-and-paste ninja films of the time, when two entirely unrelated, often unfinished films were spliced together with dubbed dialogue to paper over the cracks, then this ought to be at the top of your list. It certainly qualifies for our misleading title award, too (ninja, okay, but death code?).

Someone who, I discover via reading afterwards, is a rogue CIA agent, is selling a map to something related to the Star Wars project (remember that?) to some guy. The transaction is completed satisfactorily, but CIA guy immediately decides the other fella shouldn’t have the map and sends a team of goons to kill him. Although he can’t keep hold of the maps or the photos he took of the maps, buyer guy drops a smoke-bomb on the ground and transforms into White Ninja! But the ninja who are trying to kill him are pretty stupid and leave him alive when he fakes his own death by throwing his ninja outfit, stuffed with god knows what, off a cliff.

Here’s where things get really interesting. CIA Guy then decides to send two assassins after the first group of assassins, the Killer Duo, a husband and wife team. Well, he doesn’t really, because they’re from two completely different films, but that is certainly what the dubbing leads us to believe. Then the two of them hand over the roll of film and retire, but CIA Guy isn’t happy because they know too much and decides to have them killed.

The bulk of this is from “The Imprisoned”, a 1982 Taiwanese movie. Presumably some heavy editing went on, because the first half hour has enough plot for 17 different movies. There’s everything above, then a couple of different groups of assassins go after the Killer Duo (one group of whom just coincidentally strolls past the husband on an otherwise deserted dirt road), then the husband is arrested and the couple’s baby, only ever mentioned briefly to this point, has the time to grow to 7 years old or so. Then in literally the next scene, he’s released, then dies in the scene after that, and his son is also killed by the baddies, offscreen! Wrap your head round that!

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If I had to guess, I’d say the filmmakers kept getting bored and decided to start a new film every ten minutes or so – the number of bizarre lurches of plot is truly a wonder to behold. The wife of the Killer Duo goes out for revenge, and there’s a “name list” with a bunch of baddies on it, which she finds completely by accident, and she goes through them like a knife through butter. Because the central baddie is in a different film, getting to him proves impossible for our heroine, but every now and again we’ll get a ten-second clip of the White Ninja training, and after she kills everyone she can kill, the film tags out to the final battle featuring him vs CIA Guy (who is also a fantastic ninja, with the full range of supernatural powers). The note that’s left for CIA Guy is absolutely amazing, and I took a screencap of it for you:

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I get the feeling if you were white and could stand up straight, there was film work for you in Hong Kong in the 80s as a background thug. That’s the only way to explain the staggeringly bad acting on display, but it’s not like the Chinese actors are any better. There’s a police chief who looks like he only had the concept of acting explained to him 30 seconds before the cameras started rolling, and the dubbing! Oh, the dubbing! The guy dubbing CIA Guy is very obviously drunk at one point, and there’s an English voiceover guy doing a weird fake Italian accent to come out of the mouth of a Chinese fella. But my absolute favourite is the background burble that was recorded to sub in for the actual sound of a busy police station. As the camera pans across the room, mixed a little too high up is someone whispering “I think I’m having a nervous breakdown, I can’t take it any more”. I like to think it’s the sound guy rebelling against this crazy film.

I’m absolutely positive that all the enjoyment I got from this film is accidental. The filmmakers were no doubt just bothered about using their odds and ends of footage to make another film to make a few more dollars, and quality or audience enjoyment were a long way from their minds. Bad film fans like me 25 years later having a good time thanks to the seemingly random construction of the film, the horrible acting and dubbing and the splicing of what looked like a serious-ish gangster film with a wacky magic ninja one, even further. As ISCFC readers who’ve accompanied me through the other ninja films I’ve covered, some of them can be unbearable slogs, but for whatever reason this one just worked.

Rating: thumbs up

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!?

S3

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