As long as there are strip-mall dojos and martial arts fans who wish to see their kick-fantasy shenanigans acted out on celluloid, there will be movies like Ninja, in which a loose revenge-and-defense plot serves as a framework upon which to hang the opportunity for much balletic, foot-to-jaw action.

Naturally, the plot draws upon a certain mythology arc involving ancient samurai. The deadly weapons of the last remaining Koga ninjas, said to hold legendary powers for both good and evil (depending on the souls of the possessors, of course), are entrusted to American ninjutsu student Casey (Scott Adkins), studying in Japan. Tasked by his master to return to New York and protect at all costs the Yoroi Bitsu, an armored chest containing all the weapons, Casey crosses paths with Namiko (Mika Hijii, above left), but soon finds himself the target of skilled Yakuza assassins, including the bitter, power-hungry Masaruka (Tsuyoshi Ihara, above right), who has a past with Namiko's father. Mayhem ensues, with a couple police officers trailing the carnage, and trying to put together all the investigatory puzzle pieces.

Adkins has an extensive list of action flick credits, including X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Bourne Ultimatum, so his physical skill set isn't really in question. Unfortunately, he's no great thespian, though in his defense director Isaac Florentine, working from a script by writers Michael Hurst and Boaz Davidson, shoots the action in an over-edited manner that lends credence to the worst arguments regarding martial arts movies — that they're basically just lazy stunt reels in which discrete attacks are fended off with overly choreographed neck punches, and swords caught and held up under the armpits of flailing marauders. In the case of Ninja, check and check. It's ultra-low-budget, yes (which explains the ascetic sets), but the characterizations and dialogue are sub-par, and it's all rendered artlessly, without any realistic vim and vigor.

Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Ninja comes to DVD presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, divided into 12 chapters, with a motion-animated main menu. Audio comes by way of English language Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound and stereo 2.0 mixes, and optional English and Spanish subtitles are also included. Apart from a small trailer gallery featuring previews for Lost City Raiders and four other titles, however, there are no supplemental special features. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. D (Movie) D (Disc)


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