This is perhaps my favourite Ninja movie of all time. Not only is it preposterous fun, but shows off some serious film making skills in the visual departments. Sit down and I will tell you a story of Ninja adventure.
But first, take a look at this crazy amazing opening title sequence:
Conan Lee plays the typical Jackie Chan persona. The loveable , mischeavous country boy who apparantly have no greater concerns in the world. Just finding stuff to annoy people or play tricks on them. The great Hiroyuki Sanada plays a stoic-as-fuck Ninja travelling to China, coincidently enough to the same village Conan lee lives in, to exact revenge on a former ninja. That former Ninja also happens to be the Uncle to Conan. Wow, a lot of coincidences here,folks.
We get to see a few comedic scenes that sets up Conans character as a mischevious guy who likes to play tricks on people. There is a scene in which a bunch of spritual boxers perform and show off their remarkable spritual prowess as they show off in different ways how they´ve trained their bodies to withstand weaponry.
But as Connan comes in, humiliate the leader, starts a fight and ends it with kicking their leader´s ass it puts a real dent on an otherwise damn fine show. The leader promises that his dad is gonna get revenge. What a whiny bitch. I´d say fight your own battles,dipshit.
I don´t know if David Copperfield would have liked som joker comes in ruining the trick and the whole show for a paying audience. They did get to see some awesome kung fu so it could not have been a total waste.
We get to see Conan, the trickster, expose the fraud , that it was all deception, which is a larger theme in the movie. Part of Theme of being Ninja. Conan Lee can´t himself stand the religious zelots that blows smoke up peoples asses. Later he meet a ninja who throws smoke bombs at him. How do you like them apples?
This is a well shot film. Sometimes a lot of gorgeous imagery. Classic ninja imagery of light reflecting the blade:
But also use of mirrors in a scene to hint that the Uncles image as he has shown himself to Conan is just a mirror image of his true self of his guilty past long forgotten.
|First time we see Uncle Ninja|
Here are some more unusual images from the film.
|One of my favourite shots. Ninja fights off other ninjas |
as old ninja master visiting from Japan just sits not flinching a bit.
Deception and trickery are motifs that are used throughout the film in clever ways. And this has some strong film making talent behind it. Corey Yuen Kwai, known mostly as an action chreographer creates some stunning set pieces, very cinematically, stylish and inventive in a lot of ways.
The story is well told and there is no fat to it. It introduces the characters cleverly and visually so there is not a lot of abundance on dialogue. Of course the visuals are what HK action cinema is renowned for. But there is very little local humour that does not trancends as the tricks that are being played are part of the larger Ninja theme of tricks and deception. Who can fool who the most. Even his uncle has tricked him into believing he is just a loveable old fart. Ninjas wife is also surprisingly resourceful with her own bag of tricks up her sleeves as we are shown in a later scene.
The fight when Ninja is trapped inside the house is a masterpiece. It is Home ALone- Ninja Ediition as traps have being placed to trap him inside.Ninjalone. One tries to outdo the other in trickery. It is so much fun.
Here is a nice shot of when Ninja has vanquished all lights in the house and Conan Lee casts silver dust on him so Ninja becomes more visible:
This is do damn entertaining. Everyone seem to be playing tricks and deception even the most unexpected ones.
There are literally tons of nice visual touches to reflect trickery. In the end fight for example, Conan uses a white sheet to blend in whit the white backgrounds. A completely preposterous idea, but it works cinematically, I feel. The Ninja becomes Ninja´d as his trick are being played on him
The Ninja comes to China to avenge his fathers death as he ses Uncle responsible for the deed,but even this is not entirely accurate . What he perceives as a revenge spree turns out the uncle was his fathers brother in arms. So even the plot indicates that what we perceive can be highly misleading and as chinese and japanese speak different languages things can be seen as misleading as one does not know how to communicate. As the scene in whch Uncle commits harakiri in front of Ninja, Conan Lee comes in and thinks he see Ninja kill his uncle, And now they communicate with fists and legs instead through words.
But then the deception continues as Ninja later reveals he understands Chinese perfectly but he did not let it up until at the part of te fight when they start torespect each other as he also reveals he knows kung fu. Technically wou could say that conan has shown his understanbding of Ninjitsu as he is a highly skilled trickster. The art of deception is what the sneaky fuck excels at.
That we learn this at the end of the movie is part of what makes the film enjoyable. I like that every detail is revealed in small portions throughout the movie which makes you engaged with it better.Not everything is at it seems at first. It has not a single dull moiment in it. It is as surprisingly competently made as it is crazy. A perfect mix and a sign of a truly awesome movie. The kickass opening with the brillaint Ninja theme is so nuts and 80´s but sets you up in the right mood.
If it has a .flaw it is the final confrontation between Conan and the religious zeölots in the final. It has hardly been built up or developed with the exception from one scene. But I guess those assholes makes a big deal out of being shown they are jerks. That one scene was almost an hour ago and by now at the end we have forgotten about them by now. Well, the priest or whatever he was promised revenge, so I guess having them as villains in the final fight as Conan and Ninja bonds against these asshats we finally see them united in a fight. It is also in this fight when I feel it becomes too much standard hokey kung fu nonsense and the campy parts that have been doled out in perfect portions previously in the film comes now into full force. It is a fun fight, more reminiscent of Looney Tunes than the truly great Ninja movie we ahve been watching, but not as clever as some of the stuff we have seen earlier in the film. Just hokey shenanigans. But it is kind of a backhanded complaint as there are some laughs to be had.
One final thought on the villains. I guess the spiritual boxers might represent something similar to deception like magicians they put on this big elaborate show for the masses and deceives them. And then as Conan comes along to kick their asses the whole business model fall aprt. I guess I can´t blame them for being mad.
This is one of the greatest ninja movies. Because as ludicrous as some parts in it are, it is a very competently made film in some aspects. Especially compared to a lot of other martial arts movies at the time. Ninja in the Dragons den shows way more flair than your usual kung fu movie .Using visual motifs that makes the film more engaging on an intellectual level even though the material is hardly intellectual. It shows flair in the filmmaking skills of Corey Yuen. He can direct movies as well as action that is for damn sure
The story, while not being unique, is told very well, effectively and enjoyable. And the whole deception/trickery moments of the film is so much fun. It really shows the Ninja and why this mythic character can be fun to watch .
See also Revenge of The Ninja with Sho Kosugi for almost equally great Ninjery)