Saturday, May 31, 2014

Instant Action: Ninja (2009)

Ninjas with night vision is a pretty terrifying idea!

Written By: Boaz Davidson & Michael Hurst
Directed By: Isaac Florentine

There's some story at play in Ninja, and it's serviceable. That's faint praise, but it's okay for the story in a film that isn't really about a traditional plot based story to be merely okay. There's a good guy, a bad guy, some people who get caught in the middle, an object that is desired, and lots and lots of mayhem ensues. That story provides the framework for Isaac Florentine to film a pretty nifty action film. Ninja is first and foremost an action film, and there's nothing wrong with a well made action film, I'll let you in on that little secret for free.

The action in Ninja deserves to be focused on it because it is, as I said, pretty nifty. I was most impressed with the placement of Mr. Florentine's cameras. He presents a panorama of action with very little camera movement. Essentially he places his cameras in specific places and then allows for the action to come to the cameras. He's not so much interested in following the fray, but filming the fray as it happens. The end result is action that is both expansive and easy to follow. The filming of Ninja leaves the impression that there's more action taking place than meets the eye, if that makes any sense. It's kind of hard to describe, but because of the method Mr. Florentine uses to capture the action of the film there's a fullness to said action. Characters aren't confined to one corner of a room, or one floor of a building, the fight can take place anywhere and move anywhere.

Mr. Florentine is very adept during Ninja at making the action easy to follow. Ninja is not made using the disorienting Chaos Cinema approach to action that I loathe oh so much. No, the action in Ninja is of the sort where I can see a character get grabbed, know that he's near a window and then follow the action as he is thrown from the window and into the path of another oncoming train. Being able to follow the action is such a small thing, but it's very important when it comes to crafting an enjoyable action picture. Mr. Florentine gets it right when it comes to filming action and recognizing that the audience wants to be able to follow what is happening.

This is my first film from Scott Adkins, and I'll have to admit I wasn't super impressed. He was decent as Casey Bowman, but he didn't blow me away. There's a roughness to his style of martial arts that I could see working much better in a more brawling sort of film. He's not bad in Ninja, far from it, but for as much as he has been hyped up to me I'll need to see some better work from him in some other films for that hype to be warranted.

The same is not true of Mika Hijii, who I knew nothing about coming into Ninja and ended up being happily surprised by. She played Namiko quietly throughout, but when an action scene required her to get rough and tumble she more than had the goods. An important moment for me was her fight on the subway. She didn't shrink away like some sort of scared and fragile violet. She did some impressive ass kicking of her own, before succumbing to the simple laws of physics. Which was another aspect of the film I appreciated. I've grown a little tired of the hundred pound woman, or even man, who can take on numerous behemoths at the same time and prevail easily. Sometimes simple body weight and physics dictate that the smaller person is going to lose the fight, regardless of gender. I was happy that Ninja gave Namiko her time to shine, but also kept it real in regards to her size and the result of her fight based on said size.

I'm interested in seeing the rest of the Ninja films, as well as more from Misters Adkins and Florentine, and Hijii-sama. Ninja is the sort of direct to video goodness that is becoming harder and harder to find these days. It brings the action goods in thrilling and industrious ways. There are plenty of action films out there begging for your time. Trust me when I tell you that Ninja is one of the action films worth making the time to see.



Bill Thompson

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