Wednesday, February 5, 2014

3.5 Stars for Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear

Review for Ninja II: Shadows of a Tear

    The ninja craze moved through the early 80's like wildfire, and American audiences ate it up.  We loved the idea of deadly, stealthy, unstoppable warriors wearing black.  Sho Kosugi was one of my heroes.  It worked its way towards US kids shows.  GI Joe had Snake-Eyes and Stormshadow, the Thundercats had Panthro with his "Nunchucks" and it hits its peak with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  But like all fads, it wore its way from admiration to absurdity to parity.  Let's face it, some of those later Ninja and American Ninja movies were not just cheep, but cheesy past the point of acceptability (even for the 80's).  The ninja movies died and we didn't see much in the 90's through the 2000's.
Scott Adkins
    But everyone should know a ninja can't die.  They just lie in wait to get their revenge.  Recently, ninja movies have started to make a comeback.  2009 saw a major release of Ninja Assassin, and a lesser seen movie known simply as Ninja.  This movie that I'm reviewing is the sequel to the 2009 movie, and to be fair, I haven't seen the original.
    The movie was released in 2013, and I picked in up at Target for under $15.  I had heard some good things, and figured it was worth the monetary risk.  It stars Scott Adkins as Casey Bowman, a martial artist/ninja heading a school in Japan, and is directed by Isaac Florentine, a martial artist himself.  Scott Adkins has some pretty big movies under his belt.  He was in Zero Dark Thirty, Expendables 2, Ultimatum II, The Bourne Ultimatum, and was the Body Double for "Weapon XI" in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Isaac Florentine's main movies were Ninja (2009), Ultimatum II and Ultimatum III.  The last was where he worked with Mr. Adkins.  The initial reason I wanted to see the movie was because of the supporting actor Kane Kosugi, son of legendary ninja actor Sho Kosugi.
Kane Kosugi: Rising Ninja Star
    The plot wasn't exceptionally original, but there is the proverbial twist at the end.  I think that the plot actually works in the movie's favor.  It's a ninja movie.  You shouldn't come in expecting something that original.  The acting was a little wooden in some parts, but I've definitely seen worse in bigger budget movies (see Russel Crowe... nothing personal, I just don't like Russel Crowe).  The martial arts was actually pretty good.  There were a couple of decent things.  First off, having a director who is a martial arts definitely helps.  Unlike some movies, the fight scenes are filmed far enough away so that you can see what is going on.  I hate it when directors can't film a fight scene.  There is one really good, no-cut, scene in the "enemy" dojo which was great. Casey fought 5 or 6 people transitioning from one to another all without film cuts.  It kinda snuck up on me.  I was watching it enjoying the scene, and then it slowly dawned on me that it was all one scene.  It always impresses me when the actors/directors can string more than a couple of moves together.  There was a definite mix of martial arts techniques, it wasn't obviously a karate or tae kwon do guy dressed up as a ninja.  There was plenty of kicking and punching, as well as join locks and throws.  He also uses a whole arsenal of "traditional" ninja weapons.
    Overall, I give the movie 3.5 stars (Ninja Stars?).  If you liked the 80's ninja movies, this is just an updated, probably better, version of those movies.  The movie was really good at what it was trying to be.  It had a lot going for it, so grab a beer and enjoy an improved throw-back film.

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