Ninja (2009) Movie Review

123 Comments

(Review by Sherman Chin – POSSIBLE SPOILERS)

I have to state that I’m a movie buff and an Asian martial artist so my review might be a bit critical as evidenced by the lively teenagers who were gleefully shaking the cinema (“Ninja” is shown in Malaysian theaters instead of direct-to-dvd like in the US) seats as blood was splashing and heads were rolling. “Ninja” (2009) isn’t as hyped up as “Ninja Assassin” (2009), which came up as my first Google search when I had tried to ascertain what the movie was about after seeing its enigmatic cinema poster ad depicting a stereotypical ninja with the backdrop of New York city. So, I went into the cinema without much expectation.

The movie started out well enough with a quick historical overview of Ninjas in Japan followed by a beautiful take of a Japanese dojo showing martial artists performing their “kata” or set moves. As most of the actors were Japanese, it felt like a typical Japanese martial arts movie until the scene shifted to the hero of the series, played by Scott Adkins, who stuck out like a sore thumb (well, not if you think the Caucasian guy playing Goku in Dragonball Evolution fits the role). He was showing off his half naked sculptured body with lots of muscles. Nothing wrong here if you are a screaming fangirl (Like one of the group of teenagers beside me. Ahem!) but it definitely foretells the direction of the movie. It is one of those that glosses over the storyline in favor of shocking our visual senses. Indeed, it would be a fantastic treat of sights and sounds if only they didn’t make the heroine such a useless damsel in distress. She is the daughter of the grandmaster of the Ninja school and was depicted as being at almost the same skill-level as the hero at the beginning so it really gets super annoying after she has to be saved for the umpteen time.

If you are wondering why I am harping over the beginning of the movie so much, it is because the entire storyline and character development takes place during this relatively short period. Basically, the villain, a schoolmate, attacks the hero out of rage because they both like the heroine and they are both vying for the grandmaster title. In true martial arts philosophy (shameless plug to my philosophy website), the problem could have been solved if the current grandmaster was not so quick to kick the villain out of the school and if the hero would have just forgiven him (even if it is just out of selfishness to keep his enemies close). It is almost ridiculous that the villain then comes back to steal the Ninja heirloom that will certify him as the successor of the school when he seems to be doing well as an assassin. Criticizing the grandmaster in front of everyone before making an attempt at his life also makes us question whether he learned anything as a discreet Ninja. The rest of the movie is almost all action just to justify stealing the Ninja heirloom which is shipped to New York for protection.

Spoiler ahead – the ninja heirloom is a box containing an ancient ninja suit and weapons, which pales in comparison to the villain’s super high tech ninja suit that reminds me of Batman’s armor, even with the ability to glide and the added bonus of seeing in the dark! If that isn’t silly enough, the villain attacks his Ninja school and is warded off by students using melee weapons. I guess that’s just an excuse to show off the cool multiple-attacker combat with lots of gore. One last gripe I have is that the hero gets away with murder. Of course I am not expecting some Carebear morality but this is like Luke Skywalker being influenced by the the dark side (the villain actually mentions something to this effect at the ending) and winning because he lets anger control him.

In all fairness, the movie had some good points going for it, such as the well choreographed fight scenes and the use of actual martial artists (although they are certainly not Bujinkan ninjutsu practitioners). The high tech ninja suit is not in the same league as Batman’s armor but is really good for the film’s budget. The camera angles are good too and we can see the whole fight sequences and feel the action without feeling that something is left out like in the “Transformers” movie. And of course, the hero and heroine are both more than pleasant to look at plus the Japanese scenery is beautiful too. To top it off, I have a thing for happy endings and this one certainly takes the cake, considering how the heroic couple gets out of the entire mess in New York.

The entire movie feels like it was directed by Uwe Boll who is famous for buying video game rights and making movies out them (“BloodRayne”, “Dungeon Siege”, “Far Cry”, etc). At least Boll has a valid excuse to fit the game content in but there is no reason why “Ninja” should be cheesy (but thankfully, not over the top). It tries to cross action and story but is never quite there at both counts. If we are going for action, cut the crap and go all out like “Rambo” (2008) but if we are going for story, give it some twists like “Shooter” (2007) or better character development like “Batman Begins”. Still, I won’t consider this Ninja movie a total waste of my money. It was entertaining enough since I left my thinking cap at home. Now, if only they put me in the director’s seat!

Isaac Florentine (director) / Boaz Davidson, Michael Hurst, Zaki Rubenstein (screenplay)
CAST: Scott Adkins … Casey
Tsuyoshi Ihara … Masazuka
Mika Hijii … Namiko
Todd Jensen … Det. Traxler
Togo Igawa … Sensei
Garrick Hagon … Professor Garrison
Miles Anderson … Temple
Valentin Ganev … Klimitov


Buy Ninja on DVD

Author: Guest

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  • http://www.youtube.com/xin0 xino

    sweet, I’m waiting for this nice movie and Ninja Assman (Assassin) too. The movie does seem low budget but it’s alright.

    I’m glad you were not disappointed by the movie, which means they didn’t waste their time making a trash movie.

    Although the trailer was really bad, the trailer 2 was better and can convince someone to watch the movie.

    by the way, you should’ve tapped one of those girls asses screaming next to you:P

    • http://www.GreatDoubt.com/ Sherman

      Thanks for reading my review, Xino. I didn’t have high expectations so I wasn’t disappointed. However, I still feel a lot could have been done better. They could have saved some money on the high-tech suit and made the movie less cheesy.

      In fact, I would have liked it more if they had made the movie down to earth and film the entire thing in Japan – the Caucasian hero would have made even more sense introducing western viewers to a unique culture and the real Ninpo Taijutsu. It’s really a wasted opportunity IMHO.

      Speaking of the trailer, they could have just used the entire Japanese dojo martial arts demonstration sequence for it. Like I said, if they would just continue exploring the relationships between the characters, it would have just been fantastic. I have trained with visiting Caucasian martial artists at my dojo and there is an intriguing story to be told right there. Ninja (2009) is not a cult classic but could have been. :(

    • http://www.GreatDoubt.com/ Sherman

      Thanks for reading my review, Xino. I didn’t have high expectations so I wasn’t disappointed. However, I still feel a lot could have been done better. They could have saved some money on the high-tech suit and made the movie less cheesy.

      In fact, I would have liked it more if they had made the movie down to earth and film the entire thing in Japan – the Caucasian hero would have made even more sense introducing western viewers to a unique culture and the real Ninpo Taijutsu. It’s really a wasted opportunity IMHO.

      Speaking of the trailer, they could have just used the entire Japanese dojo martial arts demonstration sequence for it. Like I said, if they would just continue exploring the relationships between the characters, it would have just been fantastic. I have trained with visiting Caucasian martial artists at my dojo and there is an intriguing story to be told right there. Ninja (2009) is not a cult classic but could have been. :(

  • http://www.youtube.com/xin0 xino

    sweet, I’m waiting for this nice movie and Ninja Assman (Assassin) too. The movie does seem low budget but it’s alright.

    I’m glad you were not disappointed by the movie, which means they didn’t waste their time making a trash movie.

    Although the trailer was really bad, the trailer 2 was better and can convince someone to watch the movie.

    by the way, you should’ve tapped one of those girls asses screaming next to you:P

  • http://www.youtube.com/xin0 xino

    sweet, I’m waiting for this nice movie and Ninja Assman (Assassin) too. The movie does seem low budget but it’s alright.

    I’m glad you were not disappointed by the movie, which means they didn’t waste their time making a trash movie.

    Although the trailer was really bad, the trailer 2 was better and can convince someone to watch the movie.

    by the way, you should’ve tapped one of those girls asses screaming next to you:P

    • http://www.GreatDoubt.com Sherman

      Thanks for reading my review, Xino. I didn’t have high expectations so I wasn’t disappointed. However, I still feel a lot could have been done better. They could have saved some money on the high-tech suit and made the movie less cheesy.

      In fact, I would have liked it more if they had made the movie down to earth and film the entire thing in Japan – the Caucasian hero would have made even more sense introducing western viewers to a unique culture and the real Ninpo Taijutsu. It’s really a wasted opportunity IMHO.

      Speaking of the trailer, they could have just used the entire Japanese dojo martial arts demonstration sequence for it. Like I said, if they would just continue exploring the relationships between the characters, it would have just been fantastic. I have trained with visiting Caucasian martial artists at my dojo and there is an intriguing story to be told right there. Ninja (2009) is not a cult classic but could have been. :(

  • justjoe

    Sorry mate, but what were you looking for in this movie? Ninja-movies are as cheesy and corny as they get and nobody wants to watch such a movie to find out about the whole cultural background and whatever. Judging from the trailers, the director (the guy who did Undisputed 2 after all) and a damn fine martial artist in Scott Adkins, that movie will surely deliver what it promises: wild, badass stunts and fights, a simple story and the use of these old-school Ninja-gadgets! Sound´s like good old 80´s fun to me. :-)

    • http://www.GreatDoubt.com/ Sherman

      “Ninja-movies are as cheesy and corny as they get”

      justjoe, martial arts movies started off with stereotypes like that but fortunately, movies with a little more depth, “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” for example, has made it mainstream.

      “that movie will surely deliver what it promises: wild, badass stunts and fights, a simple story and the use of these old-school Ninja-gadgets!”

      Never said it didn’t deliver in that aspect. :) I’ve a hunch that the “Ninja Assassin” movie that is just around the corner will pack a stronger punch though. At least the whole story doesn’t revolve around protecting Ninja heirloom.

      “Sound´s like good old 80´s fun to me”

      Just like how the whole ninja craze started and died out unfortunately. I was looking for a little difference like perhaps how Battlestar Galactica was remade into something that completely blew my mind away. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all I guess. ;)

    • http://www.GreatDoubt.com/ Sherman

      “Ninja-movies are as cheesy and corny as they get”

      justjoe, martial arts movies started off with stereotypes like that but fortunately, movies with a little more depth, “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” for example, has made it mainstream.

      “that movie will surely deliver what it promises: wild, badass stunts and fights, a simple story and the use of these old-school Ninja-gadgets!”

      Never said it didn’t deliver in that aspect. :) I’ve a hunch that the “Ninja Assassin” movie that is just around the corner will pack a stronger punch though. At least the whole story doesn’t revolve around protecting Ninja heirloom.

      “Sound´s like good old 80´s fun to me”

      Just like how the whole ninja craze started and died out unfortunately. I was looking for a little difference like perhaps how Battlestar Galactica was remade into something that completely blew my mind away. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all I guess. ;)

  • justjoe

    Sorry mate, but what were you looking for in this movie? Ninja-movies are as cheesy and corny as they get and nobody wants to watch such a movie to find out about the whole cultural background and whatever. Judging from the trailers, the director (the guy who did Undisputed 2 after all) and a damn fine martial artist in Scott Adkins, that movie will surely deliver what it promises: wild, badass stunts and fights, a simple story and the use of these old-school Ninja-gadgets! Sound´s like good old 80´s fun to me. :-)

    • http://www.GreatDoubt.com Sherman

      “Ninja-movies are as cheesy and corny as they get”

      justjoe, martial arts movies started off with stereotypes like that but fortunately, movies with a little more depth, “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” for example, has made it mainstream.

      “that movie will surely deliver what it promises: wild, badass stunts and fights, a simple story and the use of these old-school Ninja-gadgets!”

      Never said it didn’t deliver in that aspect. :) I’ve a hunch that the “Ninja Assassin” movie that is just around the corner will pack a stronger punch though. At least the whole story doesn’t revolve around protecting Ninja heirloom.

      “Sound´s like good old 80´s fun to me”

      Just like how the whole ninja craze started and died out unfortunately. I was looking for a little difference like perhaps how Battlestar Galactica was remade into something that completely blew my mind away. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all I guess. ;)

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    Okay saying this looks like it was directed by Uwe Boll…not a good thing. LOL. However I still want to see this. As it looks like the action was better shot than in “Ninja Assassin” which looks like quick cuts and edits and lots of shadow. I wasn’t expecting too much more than what you’ve said so looks like I will be happy when I get it. I’m rebuildeing my martial arts collection adn finding these little modern gems is a great boone to me as I was getting sorely dissapointed with modern martial arts films (out of the US). Unless it’s coming from over seas, or is backed by hollywood fully (Like Last Samurai) I don’t usually look to see much on the philosophical or historical aspects of martial arts. But hey great action, I’m always looking for that. Great review man!

    • http://www.GreatDoubt.com/ Sherman

      Thanks a lot for the compliment, Dedpool! It’s actually my first review. :)

      Uwe Boll’s “In the Name Of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale” (2007) wasn’t that bad me although it was a bit cheesy. I also got the same feeling from Ninja (2009) – action is there, happy ending is there, pace is okay so good enough for me although not great.

      Nevertheless, both the movies didn’t give me the feel that I could be there filming with my video camera (not the shaking part but the realism that it could actually happen in real life with me filming it on my camera).

      From the trailer, “Ninja Assassin” looks like it will feel more real but stylistic, sort of like Kill Bill. If you are looking for realistic action, you should watch “Chocolate” (2008) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate_%282008_film%29
      and the upcoming “Raging Phoenix” (2009) also starring Yanin “Jeeja” Vismistananda. Not only is she an actual martial artist but she gets seriously injured during filming as she performs most of the stunts herself.

    • http://www.GreatDoubt.com/ Sherman

      Thanks a lot for the compliment, Dedpool! It’s actually my first review. :)

      Uwe Boll’s “In the Name Of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale” (2007) wasn’t that bad me although it was a bit cheesy. I also got the same feeling from Ninja (2009) – action is there, happy ending is there, pace is okay so good enough for me although not great.

      Nevertheless, both the movies didn’t give me the feel that I could be there filming with my video camera (not the shaking part but the realism that it could actually happen in real life with me filming it on my camera).

      From the trailer, “Ninja Assassin” looks like it will feel more real but stylistic, sort of like Kill Bill. If you are looking for realistic action, you should watch “Chocolate” (2008) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate_%282008_film%29
      and the upcoming “Raging Phoenix” (2009) also starring Yanin “Jeeja” Vismistananda. Not only is she an actual martial artist but she gets seriously injured during filming as she performs most of the stunts herself.

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    Okay saying this looks like it was directed by Uwe Boll…not a good thing. LOL. However I still want to see this. As it looks like the action was better shot than in “Ninja Assassin” which looks like quick cuts and edits and lots of shadow. I wasn’t expecting too much more than what you’ve said so looks like I will be happy when I get it. I’m rebuildeing my martial arts collection adn finding these little modern gems is a great boone to me as I was getting sorely dissapointed with modern martial arts films (out of the US). Unless it’s coming from over seas, or is backed by hollywood fully (Like Last Samurai) I don’t usually look to see much on the philosophical or historical aspects of martial arts. But hey great action, I’m always looking for that. Great review man!

  • Dedpool

    Okay saying this looks like it was directed by Uwe Boll…not a good thing. LOL. However I still want to see this. As it looks like the action was better shot than in “Ninja Assassin” which looks like quick cuts and edits and lots of shadow. I wasn’t expecting too much more than what you’ve said so looks like I will be happy when I get it. I’m rebuildeing my martial arts collection adn finding these little modern gems is a great boone to me as I was getting sorely dissapointed with modern martial arts films (out of the US). Unless it’s coming from over seas, or is backed by hollywood fully (Like Last Samurai) I don’t usually look to see much on the philosophical or historical aspects of martial arts. But hey great action, I’m always looking for that. Great review man!

    • http://www.GreatDoubt.com Sherman

      Thanks a lot for the compliment, Dedpool! It’s actually my first review. :)

      Uwe Boll’s “In the Name Of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale” (2007) wasn’t that bad me although it was a bit cheesy. I also got the same feeling from Ninja (2009) – action is there, happy ending is there, pace is okay so good enough for me although not great.

      Nevertheless, both the movies didn’t give me the feel that I could be there filming with my video camera (not the shaking part but the realism that it could actually happen in real life with me filming it on my camera).

      From the trailer, “Ninja Assassin” looks like it will feel more real but stylistic, sort of like Kill Bill. If you are looking for realistic action, you should watch “Chocolate” (2008) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate_%282008_film%29
      and the upcoming “Raging Phoenix” (2009) also starring Yanin “Jeeja” Vismistananda. Not only is she an actual martial artist but she gets seriously injured during filming as she performs most of the stunts herself.

  • http://www.GreatDoubt.com/ Sherman

    Raging Phoenix (2009) trailer at BeyondHollywood.com (which I saw playing in the cinema just before “Ninja” started):
    http://www.beyondhollywood.com/jeeja-yanin-b-boys-muay-thai-raging-phoenix-trailer/

    Some people doubt that a dance style martial arts is useful but Capoeira is actually very powerful and deadly: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capoeira
    If you encounter opponents skilled in Capoeira, never underestimate the dance and stay out of range or you will likely get some cracked bones with their whole body’s power behind their attacks. Great time to have some shurikens handy. ;)

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

      Dude, I own Chocolate, and can’t wait for Raging Phoenix. I loved the Capoeira dude in The Protector aka Tom Yung Goon. He’s do to play Eddie Gordo in the Tekken flick. Plus that breakdancing dude with the twitch in Chocoloate was crazy!!!

      • http://www.GreatDoubt.com/ Sherman

        Glad you enjoyed Chocolate, Dedpool. I’m also waiting for Raging Phoenix. Ninja comes nowhere close unfortunately. :(

        I just thought of a movie that exemplifies what I meant when I said that “Ninja” could have introduced us to the unique Japanese culture and martial arts philosophy – “Ip Man” (2008)
        http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ip-man-2008-movie-review/

        “Ip Man” showed us some real Chinese history, introduced us to Chinese traditions, promoted the Wing Chun martial art without being cheesy and it packed a lot of action that felt real. “Ninja” started out with that sort of a traditional feel but suddenly took the more incredulous road. It is good fun but it is mediocre on all counts. Now if only someone would make a movie like “Ip Man” but featuring Ninjutsu and give us a hero that we can really feel and root for! :)

        • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

          I know what you meant. I am awaiting Ip Man’s official release on Region-1 DVD too. There are alot of Asian films I’m waiting for. “Ip Man,” “Red Cliff,” and “Storm Warriors,” as well as “Raging Phoenix,” and others that were featured on this site. The closest you can get to “Ip Man” and it’s historical and philosophical issues in Hollywood is “Fearless” from jet Li. “Hero” is another good one as is “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (subtitled the dub is HORRID!!!) I’m all for more flicks like “Fearless” and “Ip Man.” And yeah I get what you’re saying about the Ninja flicks, but Ninjas, like American Cowboys, and European Knights have been romanticized and turned into almost fantastical characters capable of doing amazing things that no human should be able to do. Sometimes the truth just isn’t as much fun as the fiction. I wasn’t expecting ground breaking cinema i “Ninja” nor anything on par with “Ip Man” or the other films I mentioned. It seems like exactly what I want. Escapist fun, with a little bit of Japanese Tradition and even a bit of history.

        • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

          I know what you meant. I am awaiting Ip Man’s official release on Region-1 DVD too. There are alot of Asian films I’m waiting for. “Ip Man,” “Red Cliff,” and “Storm Warriors,” as well as “Raging Phoenix,” and others that were featured on this site. The closest you can get to “Ip Man” and it’s historical and philosophical issues in Hollywood is “Fearless” from jet Li. “Hero” is another good one as is “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (subtitled the dub is HORRID!!!) I’m all for more flicks like “Fearless” and “Ip Man.” And yeah I get what you’re saying about the Ninja flicks, but Ninjas, like American Cowboys, and European Knights have been romanticized and turned into almost fantastical characters capable of doing amazing things that no human should be able to do. Sometimes the truth just isn’t as much fun as the fiction. I wasn’t expecting ground breaking cinema i “Ninja” nor anything on par with “Ip Man” or the other films I mentioned. It seems like exactly what I want. Escapist fun, with a little bit of Japanese Tradition and even a bit of history.

      • http://www.GreatDoubt.com/ Sherman

        Glad you enjoyed Chocolate, Dedpool. I’m also waiting for Raging Phoenix. Ninja comes nowhere close unfortunately. :(

        I just thought of a movie that exemplifies what I meant when I said that “Ninja” could have introduced us to the unique Japanese culture and martial arts philosophy – “Ip Man” (2008)
        http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ip-man-2008-movie-review/

        “Ip Man” showed us some real Chinese history, introduced us to Chinese traditions, promoted the Wing Chun martial art without being cheesy and it packed a lot of action that felt real. “Ninja” started out with that sort of a traditional feel but suddenly took the more incredulous road. It is good fun but it is mediocre on all counts. Now if only someone would make a movie like “Ip Man” but featuring Ninjutsu and give us a hero that we can really feel and root for! :)

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

      Dude, I own Chocolate, and can’t wait for Raging Phoenix. I loved the Capoeira dude in The Protector aka Tom Yung Goon. He’s do to play Eddie Gordo in the Tekken flick. Plus that breakdancing dude with the twitch in Chocoloate was crazy!!!

  • http://www.GreatDoubt.com/ Sherman

    Raging Phoenix (2009) trailer at BeyondHollywood.com (which I saw playing in the cinema just before “Ninja” started):
    http://www.beyondhollywood.com/jeeja-yanin-b-boys-muay-thai-raging-phoenix-trailer/

    Some people doubt that a dance style martial arts is useful but Capoeira is actually very powerful and deadly: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capoeira
    If you encounter opponents skilled in Capoeira, never underestimate the dance and stay out of range or you will likely get some cracked bones with their whole body’s power behind their attacks. Great time to have some shurikens handy. ;)