Archive for December, 2010

Review: Ninja (2009)

Posted in Fumio Demura, Isaac Florentine, Mika Hijii, Reviews, Scott Adkins, Tsuyoshi Ihara with tags , , , on December 31, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Scott Adkins, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Mika Hijii

Fight Choreography by Akahiro Noguchi

Directed by Isaac Florentine

After toiling away in DTV films and rising up, going from thug#3 to badass thug #1 to lead henchman and finally to main bad guy, Scott Adkins has paid his dues. Thanks to Undisputed 2 Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White scored a hit film that brought them to the fore of martial arts films, and showed that Isaac Florentine is the best director for English-speaking martial arts films anywhere. Adkins and Florentine team up once again to bring us Ninja in Adkins’ first starring role. So does he hit or miss as a leading man?

In my humble opinion, Hell Yeah, He’s a Hit.

Adkins stars as Casey Bowman, an American orphan in Japan who was taken in by a ninja dojo, and raised there by the Sensei. Now an adult, and old enough to become a Soke (master of the dojo) if his Sensei deems him worthy, is also in love with the Sensei’s daughter Namiko, which irks his chief rival, Masazuka, to no end, primary because he’s a dick of incredible proportions who wants control of the dojo, Namiko, and the Yoroi Bitsu, the last set of ninja armor and weapons from the Koga ninja clan that is centuries old.

Since we know Masazuka is a little bitch you know he’d have to try to start some shit with Casey, and he does so during a sparring match with Casey, which is a fantastic fight that spirals out of control when Masazuka escalates the violence by attacking Casey with a real sword, which brings him dishonor to the clan, and the Sensei expels Masazuka, who is cast out in disgrace. We then fast forward to “some time later” and we meet a cult that looks like a group of reject bad guys from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, dressing like they shopped the bargain bin at Hot Topic, and they are using Masazuka’s skills as a ninja to off their rivals, and we get an example of this in Russia, where we get cool, bloody scene of Masazuka assassinating an oil magnate who is making a merger deal with another oil company.

Soon Masazuka turns his attentions to the dojo, and returns, threatening the school that he would have the Yoroi Bitsu. The Sensei, knowing this crazy jackass means it, sends the Yoroi Bitsu, along with his daughter and Casey to New York to be taken in by a University professor friend of the Sensei’s. Sure enough Masazuka arrives at the dojo, and in a thrilling, well-choreographed weapons fight in the rain, Masazuka kills over a dozen of the students, and finally the Sensei himself, and learns the whereabout of the Yoroi Bitsu, and with the help of the Temple Cult, goes after it, and Casey is the only one who can stop him…

Folks, this is a really fun, comic-booky kind of ninja film. Some things, like the Temple cult, are ridiculous, but we know they are there for Casey to beat up on, which he does, and does well. The fights range from good to great, and the best fight is the Temple fight with Casey beating down over fifteen guys, and his final fight with Masazuka and the Temple thugs. The choreography is fast and fluid, with the best of the Hong Kong films, and Adkins proves he’s up to the challenge. He has this rare mixture of grace and speed, as well as acrobatics and strength. His acting is okay, and I would place that on the same level as a Jean Claude Van Damme or Seagal. In other words, just fine for a martial arts film. You may also recognize the jacket he’s wearing. It’s the same jacket Hugh Jackman wore in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Adkins did the stunt double work for both Wolverine and Weapon X.

Casey’s final fight with Masazuka featured a bit more wirework than I would have liked, but fits the comic book nature of the film. Tsuyoshi Ihara is great as the slimy villain, and arguably does a better acting job than Adkins. It should be noted that Ihara is the star pupil of legendary martial arts screen fighter Yasuaki Kurata (Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, Heroes of the East)

You may also recognize Fumio Demura who plays Shihan Dei. He did all of the stuntwork for Pat Morita in the Karate Kid films, and performs great here, even having a few fight scenes for himself.

Florentine continues his great run with fantastic camera work, knowing where to have the scene edited and shots long choreographed scenes. He understands what martial arts film fans want to see, and gives it to them as much as possible.

If you want a fun, not so serious ninja film, with good fight choreography and a rising star in Scott Adkins, you’ve found it!

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) This is some great stuff here. Noguchi has the fights going at Hong Kong speed, and is fluid and simple yet complex at the same time.

STUNTWORK: (7) These guys really tossed themselves around and took a couple of nasty drops. Adkins has a lot of acrobatic scenes and Ihara has some good stuff here, too. Bear in mind that many of the stunts in the dojo attack scenes were performed by real black belts.

STAR POWER: (9) Scott Adkins jumps right alongside the best English-speaking action stars, and Ihara is just starting, and he looks to be a force on his own in the future.

FINAL GRADE:(9) A great ninja film that is fun and full of great fights, and a good hint that things to come for Scott Adkins and Tyoshi Ihara. Note to Hollywood: Give Scott Adkins a great action role! This guy is ready to be a star!


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Review: American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt (1989)

Posted in David Bradley, Mike Stone, Reviews, Steve James with tags , , on December 30, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring David Bradley, Steve James

Fight Choreography by Mike Stone

Directed by Cedric Sundstrom

“Aw, not these guys again. Why can’t it be terrorists?”

Those words were uttered by Curtis Jackson (James), now out of the military and attending a martial arts tournament in the Caribbean who once again finds himself fighting off ninjas to defeat them from yet another stab at genetically engineering the perfect ninja. In the last film they defeated the Lion, and now they face the Cobra. However, this time Jackson’s not teaming up with his old buddy Joe Armstrong (American Ninja 1 and 2’s Michael Dudikoff) but a new guy named Sean Davidson (Bradley), a karate champion who has a Bruce Wayne/Peter Parker-style origin after watching his dad getting gunned down while trying to stop a robbery at a martial arts tournament. His dad learned that while a Gi is very good, it can’t stop a bullet, or in this case about ten.

Jackson and Sean find themselves competing in the tournament, and Jackson knows Sean by reputation, and both become friends quickly, and are unfortunately saddled with a goofy sidekick who hangs around most of the film before he meets face to face with a high-speed arrow. Until then, we all have to suffer this jackass. Look for Mike Stone in a cameo as the tournament referee. Sean soon follows a group of hired cannon fodder who are seen-in the brightness of day-kidnapping a martial artist and hauling his ass away to a hotel, where Sean beats his way to the martial artist, who turns out to be his Master Izumo. The first fights here are better than anything that Michael Dudikoff did in his previous films, mostly because David Bradley is an actual martial artist, which does improve things from a choreography standpoint.

Sean gets Jackson and sidekick involved, and together they face a lead ninja more complicated than any of the others, a female ninja named Chan Lee. She’s a master of disguise, and unlike the ninja baddies in the previous films is duped into believing that the Cobra is doing everything for the right reasons. How she can conclude this when the guy she works for is called “the Cobra” is beyond me, but perhaps that’s a mild name where she comes from. Perhaps she was fooled by the white suit.

Soon Sean, Chan, Jackson and numbnuts lead an assault on the headquarters of the Cobra for one last showdown to stop him from not only creating the perfect ninja, but to stop a virus he hopes to unleash on the world, which evidently can be expelled from the body by extreme ninja concentration, which Sean pulls off in a scene that is laugh out loud horrible.

Where to begin? Let’s start with the strength of the previous films, Steve James. As I’ve said before, he’s a great martial artists and does the best acting jobs of anyone in these films, but this time his character seemed a lot more serious and subdued, not the talking-shit-as-he-kicks-ninja-ass-coolness we’ve come to expect from his character. He has one funny line, but except for that he’s practically muted.

David Bradley does a passable but not great acting job here, but his martial arts skills are apparent, as the choreography is better than in any previous film, but even here is feels a bit tired, as if Mike Stone was getting bored with his own job. The camera work doesn’t help, as it may be the most bland camera work of any of the American Ninja films. Once again we’re treated to a ninja played by someone who doesn’t know any martial arts, and in this film that’s the character of Chan Lee. Quick cuts and edits try to mask it, but it’s incredibly obvious.

The previous films also had a sidekick to Jackson and Armstrong, but this sidekick is annoying as hell. I mean Rob Schneider annoying. Note that after he gets killed, his death doesn’t register with a single character, as if he was never there. I would question the writers on why even have his character there if he makes no real emotional impact even in death.

Unlike the previous American Ninja films, this one is missing one very important ingredient: fun. And that’s what makes it the worst entry so far.

(Out of scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (5) All in the all the fight scenes were better here than in previous films, but the shitty camera work sinks so much of it down that it makes that practically moot, and you can tell that Mike Stone is getting tired of this series.

STUNTS: (1) Not even worth mentioning. And you know that’s bad.

STAR POWER: (4) A subdued Steve James is better than no James at all, and David Bradley does an okay job, and will do better in his future films.

FINAL GRADE: (3) It’s obvious they tried to make a more serious film for a series that doesn’t deserve one. By removing the goofy fun, they’ve made a goofy, shitty movie. A waste of time and talent for those involved. What’s even worse is that this is Steve James’ last film in this series. He deserved a better exit than this.

NEXT: Scott Adkins is the Ninja!

Review: Pray For Death (1985)

Posted in Kane Kosugi, Reviews, Sho Kosugi with tags , , , on December 27, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Sho Kosugi, Kane Kosugi, Shane Kosugi

Fight Choreography by Sho Kosugi

Directed by Gordon Hessler

This film should serve as a public service announcement to mobsters everywhere. Should a badass ninja warrior board your boat, jack up twenty of your hired goons, and appear behind you with a knife and threatens to kill you in such a way that you’ll pray for death before it’s over if you don’t stop jacking with his family and then disappears without a trace, you should probably leave his family the hell alone. One such mobster named Limehouse decides not to listen to this, and a very brutal lesson is learned.

Sho Kosugi plays Akira Saito, a business man who hides from his children (it’s hinted that his wife knows) that he is in fact a badass retired ninja, and we find out the reason why he retired when we go into a flash back to find that his martial arts brother dressed as a ninja and tried to steal from the temple, and is stopped after a good fight not by Saito, but from clumsiness that comes straight from a Home Alone film as he slips on his scabbard and impales himself on his own sword he had stabbed into a pillar a moment earlier. Okay, so the impaling isn’t Home Alone, but I betcha that would’ve made that film a whole lot cooler. Anyway, as Saito’s wife Aiko is mixed race anglo-american and japanese, he decides to move his family to Houston, Texas so she can be closer to that side of her family over there. Unfortunately since you know this film’s called Pray for Death, you just know shit has to go wrong, and that will probably cost his wife Aiko her life. The kid’s will make it because they are a) Sho’s sons in real life, and b) they’re contractually obligated to live…and kick ass. Saito buys a restaurant from retiree, and changes it to a Japanese restaurant. Unknown to Saito, and even the previous owner, is that the local mob is using the back room of the restaurant to move stolen merchandise that a pair of corrupt cops leave for them. Two cops decide to keep an expensive necklace for themselves, and that sets off a tragic chain of events as Limehouse and his mob believe that Saito has the necklace.

They start by kidnapping Saito’s youngest son Tomoya while he oldest son Takeshi is beating up some local kids who try to steal Tomoya’s bicycle, and Kane is great in this scene, beating the crap out of these kids. Limehouse sees this when he takes Tomoya to his car, and instead of trying to fight Takeshi, he saves himself the embarrassment by punching Takeshi dead in the face as he runs up to the car, and then knocks the shit out of him with the car door. I’ll give it up for Limehouse here. Yeah, that’s a dick move, but he thought it better than being beaten up like a bitch by a eight-year-old.

Saito goes to get Tomoya back from Limehouse, and escapes with his son. Further pissed off Limehouse has some of his men hit Aiko and Tomoya with a car. I mean, shit. Limehouse doesn’t believe in doing any half-assed. Aiko and Tomoya are both still alive and taken to the hospital, and Saito pays a visit to Limehouse’s boat where he’s having a party. Saito decides that black leather clothing would suffice instead of a ninja costume, and sneaks his way onto the boat and delivers the public service announcement I had already mentioned.

Not really understanding the three strikes rule, Limehouse infiltrates the hospital and kills Aiko (told you) and gets away before he can do the same to Tomoya. Not really caring for the police, Saito takes his sons to a warehouse he owns and is so pissed off he forges his own sword in the warehouse. Do you realize how pissed off you have to be to do this? The work, the heat, the money spent, oh shit yeah, someone’s gonna die badly.

Not only that, but after he leaves for vengeance, Takeshi has to defend Tomoya from the mobsters who find out he’s there, and does so with the aid of a ninja bicycle. Damn right, this bike is a 4-speed and also has detachable nunchaku, pink gas that erupts from the back, a slingshot you can draw back and smack a guy right in the nuts should he grab the bike from the front, and side bars that can come out and trip up anyone he rides by. That is simply badass. You leave to kill people, but you also leave your little boy a ninja death bicycle. Once I have a kid he’s getting one of those. Damn straight.

The final fight isn’t great or well done as Limehouse is more of a challenge than he should be, but the moment he meets his end would make the Jigsaw killer in Saw really happy as Limehouse meets a bloody end that really does make him pray for death. Saito returns to his sons, and they decide to stay in the USA since there is so much more ass to kick here.

The film has really shoddy production values, and unfortunately most of Sho Kosugi’s American films do, but Sho and his sons elevate the film, even overcoming terrible cinematography that add nothing to the fight scenes. The acting is terrible, but Sho’s onscreen presence is undeniable. The fight scenes range from okay to decent, and features some good ninja stuff, but overall could have been much better. This is one film that really took itself way too seriously.

(Out of scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREGRAPHY: (6) Sho is capable of much better, but the fight scenes were not too exciting. This is largely due to the fact that he doesn’t fight anyone who knows anything.

STUNTS: (4) Not great. Bad reaction deaths from the mobsters, and it all looked really fake.

STAR POWER: (7) Sho and Kane. That’s it.

FINAL GRADE: (5) Sho has done much better than this, and while not terrible, doesn’t really do much to advance the genre nor is terribly enjoyable to watch more than once. It’s still great to watch Sho onscreen, however.

Review: American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)

Posted in Michael Dudikoff, Mike Stone, Reviews, Steve James with tags , , on December 21, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Michael Dudikoff, Steve James, Mike Stone

Fight Choreography by Mike Stone

Directed by Sam Firstenberg

Theyyyy’rrrreeee baaaaaaack! The American military find themselves owned by ninjas and once again need the help of Joe Armstrong (Dudikoff) and his sidekick Curtis Jackson (James). They find themselves transferred to an island in the Caribbean when several U.S. Marines are kidnapped and no one has a clue who’s doing it (answer: ninjas).

Joe and Curtis arrive to the island to find that the marines lead a very laid back lifestyle, wearing cabana shirts and drinking mohitos on the beach instead of shooting something. Soon they find themselves patrolling the nearby islands with some marines, one of which was a marine named Taylor that has lured the others into the arms of the ninjas. Joe’s bullshit detector is on full and he senses that this guy is a douche, and confirms as much when Taylor pulls the plug on the boat, faking it to be disabled, and Joe checks for himself after the others go swimming and finds that indeed Taylor was fill of shit, and before Joe can let everyone know, the ninjas decide to attack. One thing has to be said about the American Ninja films, these ninjas like to attack in the daylight, still wearing their black ninja uniforms. In the hot sun of the Caribbean. Because that makes hella sense. Anyway, the ninjas attack, but never fear, they have no chance of beating Joe or Curtis, not because they are so good—actually Curtis is the best in this film—but because these ninjas are like keystone cops. Half the damn time they wind up killing each other will ill-timed sword slices and arrow launches. The fight here kinda sucks because none of the sword cuts look remotely real. You can actually tell they are swiping at the air! Dudikoff does a better job than in his fight scenes in the previous film, but Steve James really goes all out. Curtis is a more interesting character than Joe Armstrong because of the energy and badassness that James brings to the part, not to mention his abilities as a real martial artist.

After the attempt to kill Joe and Curtis fails, Taylor lures Joe to a bar called the Blind Beggar, where the other soldiers were kidnapped, and Joe gets jumped by a group of thugs, one of which is played by Friday the 13th killer Jason Vorhees, Kane Hodder. Joe beats them up in a pretty good scene and then has to face them again in Taylor’s room before Joe confronts Taylor, who is about to spill the beans when he walks into a ninja spear. It’s here where we find out about a supercriminal named the Lion who is harvesting the DNA of the marines in an attempt to create genetically engineered ninjas, and sell their services to the highest bidder.

After Taylor is killed Joe and company attend a ambassador’s luncheon, where a strange woman interrupts the proceedings, accusing the Lion, who happens to be there, of drug dealing, which is true, so of course no one believes her. Joe and his boys follow Lion’s men, who take her away, right back to the Blind Beggar bar. Joe and his crew get attacked by the same men as before and a fun fight ensues, thanks in large part to the shit talking that Curtis gives throughout the entire brawl scenes. It is here we really meet the lead ninja Tojo, placed by martial artist and fight choreographer Mike Stone. During the fight the girl gets away again, but Joe goes after her alone, and finds her, but the ninjas find them both, and a good, but very,  very cheesy ninja fight happens here, but you can see that Dudikoff has learned a lot since the previous film as his fighting style has a much better form, and his speed has increased. Of course it is here that we meet fucking ninja Terminator. Joe and the girl get into a truck along with a kid who is helping Joe get around town, and this ninja first jumps in the bed of the truck and fights Joe, gets thrown off of the truck, throws a chain and connects, and instantly wonders about the folly of doing this as he is drug for a few miles over dirt and pavement, and then flies over the truck as Joe stops, hangs on to the front like Indiana Jones, and they kill his overachieving ass by jumping out of the truck and letting it rocket him into a gas station that finally blows the ninja up. I have to wonder who the hell was this ninja? Why wasn’t he the main villain? This was a flunky with aspirations of being a lead henchman, dashed by a 1976 Chevy and a shit-ton of gasoline. Damn that Joe Armstrong! Soon Joe and Curtis, and a whole lot of marines find the base of the Lion, and lead and attack to stop his plan once and for all…

Is it possible to be even sillier than the previous film? Apparently the answer is yes. The plot is ludicrous by itself, and the fights are both funny and pretty bad, except for the stars themselves. Michael Dudikoff remains a blank slate acting wise, but his fight scenes are much better than in the previous film. Mike Stone does a great job as Tojo, not saying much but displaying a lot of menace, and at least he stays real for the most part, not having any shit like laser sleeves or flamethrowers wrists like the villain in the previous film.

Steve James is really the gem of the film here. He brings great energy and a load of fun every time he appears on-screen, and I loved when he pulled out the Butterfly Swords and went to town on some ninjas toward the end of the film. Yeah, he would’ve stolen the film from Michael Dudikoff if Michael hadn’t been content to share it with him. What really hurts this film, but also adds to the fun in its own way, is that the acting of the stuntmen is horrid. It’s like none of them went to death-acting school. Every action scene is full of henchmen and ninjas who die in the most horrendously acted moments not seen since early Roger Corman films. Bland direction by Sam Firstenberg doesn’t help matters any as well, but what the hell, Cannon films loved the guy, so he must be doing something right I’m not seeing.

Favorite scene that sums it all up: After a cheesy fight in which Curtis breaks the neck of a ninja Bruce Lee-stomp style he walks away, and the ninja tries to get up, and Curtis turns and yells “Stay down!” and the ninja immediately dies. Fun stuff. You can tell that despite the production values and overall cheese of the film everyone had fun making it, and it shows.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) Much better than the previous film. Maybe having Mike Stone also play the villian as well as the fight choreographer helped, and it’s obvious he had more time to work with Michael Dudikoff.

STUNTS: (2) The stuntmen did a horrible acting job, dying in hilariously bad acting scenes. You’ll laugh too much to notice anything else they did.

STAR POWER: (7) Michael Dudikoff returns as does Steve James, and this time they give James a lot more to do than in the previous film, allowing him to have entire action scenes by himself. That really made this movie a lot of fun.

FINAL GRADE: (7) Actually a film that was a lot more fun than the first, silly in its execution, but an improved Michael Dudikoff and more Steve James makes this a lot of fun. Just let your mind go and enjoy the silliness of it all!

Review: Mafia vs Ninja (1984)

Posted in Alexander Lou, Reviews with tags , , , on December 17, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Alexander Lou

Fight Choreography by ?

Directed by Robert Tai

A moment of clarification: Don’t let the title fool you. Tony, Ricky and Bobby Toetaglia aren’t going to grab guns and cement blocks and go jack with Ryu Badassuku and his band of roving ninjas (actually, that’s a pretty darn good idea…) Nope, we’re talking about the chinese mafia in Shanghai, a group that condones prostitution, racketeering, robbery, jacking up the cops, and other assorted forms of entertainment, but Holy Hanna, if you show up to deal opium it’s your ass…unless that ass happens to wield shuriken, and then it’s anyone’s game. Now that’s the setup for Mafia vs. Ninja, and there’s something cool in the simplicity of that concept.

The film stars Alexander Lou as Jack Do, a country bumpkin (meaning he can kick all kinds of ass) shows up in Shanghai and befriends Charlie Wong after a mistaken identity moment almost gets Charlie’s ass killed by Jack. Jack came to Shanghai in order to get work that uses his kung-fu skills. Y’know, I like that. No existential or zen mumbo-jumbo, just a dude who knows kung-fu and wants to use it to kick some ass and get paid for it. Shanghai was the right place for Jack to show up, as he and Charlie, working as sewer workers, get shaken down for cash by thugs who work for the mafia. They say “give” and Jack says “with which fist” and grants the thugs a clinic on the definition of a beatdown.

The thugs run back to their boss, the second in command Tong Mao, who reports to the big boss, William Chung, who is actually a stand-up guy who order Tong to knock that shit off and leave those guys-who-obviously-beat-your-boys-down alone. Of course Tong doesn’t care for this idea, and believes that Chung needs to go away so Tong can take over as leader. Tong goes to the Japanese to get their help taking over the mafia after he kills Chung, and Silver How, the leader, agrees.

Note that I haven’t mentioned ninjas yet. They’re coming, but you have to wait a shit-long time for them. Luckily, when they do the fights get pretty good and the film moves along fairly quickly. So anyway, Tong’s thugs try to kill Chung in an ambush while he’s out with his boys one night, but Jack and Charlie are also there, and they fight off the attackers and save Chung. Chung wants to pay them back for the save, and invites them to his home. Tong sees yet another opportunity to be a douchebag, and tricks Jack into giving Chung a basket of fruit that contains a bomb that looks as if the Acme factory made it. Jack once again saves Chung, and in a rage jumps on his bicycle and chases Tong, who runs away on foot. That’s right, death rides a four-speed and the bells have tolled for Tong, who tries his best to stand and fight, but like the best Shaw Brothers, dies with a burst of blood capsules in the mouth.

Jack and Charlie join the mafia after that, and while Tong is dead, Silver How still likes the idea of killing William Chung, and along with his ninjas (there they are!) hires four others, a black dude with shitty kung-fu skills, a European knife thrower, a kendo master with a Hitler moustache, and a ninja who specialized in rope and chain weapons. Together they attack the mafia, and a war begins for control of the Shanghai underworld…

The film is a low-budget film with bad film stock, but the fights are pretty good Shaw Brothers style fights. It also has to be said that the editing is dreadful, and hampers some of the fights, the worst culprit belonging to the fight between Jack and the kendo master. The fight ends abruptly, one moment a full-on fight and then several killing blows that are edited so badly you don’t know exactly how the kendo master dies. Despite this the film makes up for it with some bizarre moments, like the scene where Jack and Charlie go to a whites-only club, and decide it’s time to desegregate that club with some fists, and fight a few guys who couldn’t possibly be difficult to beat, but somehow are.

Fellow reviewer The Outlaw Vern loves to talk about the multiple death scenes Steven Seagal give his opponents on occasion, but the death of Silver How has got to be in the Pray for a Final Death Hall of Fame. While fighting Jack, Silver is thrown on top of a table and given an axe kick to the chest, shattering his chest bone. Not content with this, Jack grabs one of Silver’s legs and places in a chair and brings his foot down, breaking the leg. Still not finished, Jack grabs the other leg and places it in the same chair along with the one he already broke and breaks the other leg and the one he already broke again. Not content with giving Silver the mercy of dying with a caved-in chest and two badly broken legs, Jack decides to choke Silver for a bit, and still not content with that breaks Silver’s neck mercifully. Silver presumably dies happy that the pain has ended. Yikes.

Also, Jack has a peculiar habit of when anyone does something to him that requires payback, Jack strikes a crazy pose and yells “ Revenge!” presumably to no one in particular, which is incredibly odd, since no one around Jack seems to wonder what the hell he’s doing and who he’s speaking to.

My favorite death scene involves Jack killing a ninja by impaling said ninja through the eye with the small branch of a tree Jack pulls out to use as a staff.

This isn’t a great movie, and not really all that good, but you can get a good laugh out of it as a late night film.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (6) Good old-school fight choreography that is hurt by being badly edited at various moments.

STUNTS: (6) A few good ninja moments make their effort passable, but nothing really noteworthy.

STAR POWER: (2) Alexander did a bunch of ninja vs whatever during the 80’s, and got a lot of work in other ninja films during the 80’s ninja craze, but not much else. His last film was in 1999…Shaolin Dolemite.

FINAL GRADE: (5) The editing really brings an otherwise decent ninja film down–way down. The kung-fu is good, but nothing Shaw Brothers and many other films haven’t already done better.

Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

Posted in Ernie Reyes Jr., Reviews, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with tags , , , on December 14, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, Ernie Reyes Jr, Toshishiro Obata

Fight Choreography by Pat Johnson

Directed by Steve Barron

I’ll just say this up front: I was and still am a fan of the Ninja Turtles. The comic book, not the actual cartoon show, though I did like that as well. Hell no, the comic book is where it’s at. For those only familiar with the cartoon and movies, the comic book is NOT for kids. It’s actually got some hardcore shit. The turtles act like ninjas, don’t really care for pizza one way or the other, and have no problems killing people. Foot ninjas, to be exact, and speaking of them, The Shredder took no shit from anyone, and when all was said and done, Leonardo decapitated the Shredder in their final confrontation, and then burned his body to make sure he wouldn’t be coming back to life or anything down the road. Tell me that isn’t some hardcore stuff right there.

The difference between the comic book and that cartoon show is like comparing The Dark Knight to the Adam West 60’s series. So the question is, would the movie be more like the comic book or the cartoon?

Revisiting this film, I had no idea that Golden Harvest, home to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, had produced this film, but from what happens later, I shouldn’t have been surprised. The film starts with the audience being told that a rash of robberies across New York City has got the police stymied, and no one knows what’s going one, but we do see youths across town boosting TV’s, and anything else not nailed down, and delivering it to the Foot Ninjas, who evidently hang out in a white van waiting for them, and It’s a small wonder that the police were never–suspicious of dudes wearing ninja outfits with Spider-Man-like eyes driving around town in a van.

We soon meet April O’Neill, a reporter who believes the Asian community who are saying, “It’s ninjas, assholes!” Since the logic of this is apparent, no one believes April, not even her boss. One night she gets mugged by a group of thugs, and she is saved by the Ninja Turtles, who take out the lights and beat the thugs up, and when the police arrive they are hogtied and bruised. April finds one of Raphael’s Sais, and winds up taking it with her. We then meet the Turtles, Michelangelo, the surfer-dude knucklehead with nunchaku, Donatello, the brains of the outfit who fights with a staff, Raphael, the hothead who carries Sais, and Leonardo, the leader who runs around with 2 katana swords. They are under the tutelage of Splinter, a mutated rat who learned the art of ninja from his master, Hamato Yoshi. Pissed off about losing his sai, Raphael goes to check out a movie and stops some muggers from robbing an old lady. Unfortunately for the muggers Raphael lets them go, and they run right into the hands of Casey Jones, a masked vigilante who beats up criminals with various sporting equipment, in this case a hockey stick. The film started out somewhat kiddie, but Casey Jones makes his scenes a bit more violent than what kids would be used to seeing, but he’s step for step with his comic book version. He gets into a scrap with Raphael, who didn’t really understand what happens when you smack someone in the mouth with a cricket bat.

Soon April meets the Turtles after Raphael saves her, but Splinter is captured when the Foot attack their home while the Turtles are away. The Turtles go to stay at April’s, and one of the best fights in the film take place here, starting first with Raphael fighting the ninjas on the rooftop of April’s building. Good fight Choreography to be had here, as Raphael pulls off fighting techniques not unlike what you would see Jackie Chan or Sammo Hung do, but since Golden Harvest produced this, I can’t be too surprised. The fight then goes into April’s living room, and one of my favorite scenes in the film is here, where one ninja who is really good with nunchaku gets into a my-skills-are-better-than-yours nunchaku twirling match with Michelangelo. The reaction of the Foot ninja and especially those around him is great, like the ninjas “oooh” and “ahh” after Michelangelo’s twirling, like to say to their boy, “You gonna let him punk you like that? Show yo’ shit, fool!”

The Turtles, with the help of April and Casey Jones, escape to a farmhouse outside of town, where the team recuperates, sees Splinter like some sort of Obi-Wan Kenobi ghost figure, and bond with each other and with April and Casey. Soon they decide it’s time to go back and kick some ass, and asses do get kicked rather well in some great fight choreography. The final fight vs Shredder is the best, and gets rid of any funny stuff to concentrate on the fight. His fight with Leonardo is the best of them, and Splinter ends it all beautifully.

And yep, that’s the great Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2, Moon, Galaxy Quest) as the leader of the thugs.

The film falls in between Turtles lore, funny like the cartoon, but the fights are serious much like the comic book. The fights are well done, and I know a martial arts consultant was brought in, presumably to help with the fight choreography, and I suspect it was someone within Golden Harvest’s camp. The fights nearly have a Dragons Forever flavor to it. This may be the best stuff Ernie Reyes Jr has done outside of The Rundown, which is kinda sad. So many failed expectations many of us had for him, but I’m saving that rant for another day, coming soon. As for the film, it’s a good introduction to the world of martial arts for kids, even thought it’s pretty dated.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Surprisingly well done here. They were fluid and fun, and it couldn’t have been east for the martial artists in the turtle suits to perform those great moves!

STUNTS: (8) The ninja stuntmen took a lot of falls in this film, and some acrobatic flips after getting kicked that were well done.

STAR POWER: (9) Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles.

FINAL GRADE: (8) The first film is a great mix of martial arts and comedy, everyone involved did a great job for the time it was done in. It satisfies the kids and the comic book geeks alike, and is a surprisingly good ninja film!