Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dullest Ninja Movie EVER

Ninja Vengeance (1988)

A blond-haired "ninja" gets into trouble in Redneck Town, USA and quickly goes on the lam. (Someone explain to me how going on the run and not wanting to fight equals “vengeance?”)

How do we know this guy is a ninja? From the contents of his nap sack, of course, which includes throwing stars, some rope, a thing that looks like a flute, some more throwing stars, oh, and two books on ninjas and ninjutsu. The fact that they are two PAPERBACK books clues us in his training was first rate.

This movie could easily have been titled, “Ninja Pamphlet” as it constantly flashes back to our ninja Chris Mason’s (Craig Boyett, who looks more like John Tesh than Chuck Norris) training on the beach by some white bearded sensei (Stephen K. Hayes) who drones on about important martial arts messages such as the way of the ninja, the concept of yin and yang, and the best dim sum joints in town. He’s like a very mellow Tony Robbins.

The town locals are all KKK-carrying racist goofballs, who are often hilariously over-dubbed in crowd scenes (seriously, I've never heard "Git 'em!" so many times in one movie). Led by a corrupt sheriff and his son, Jesse the deputy (David Paul Lord), the rednecks kill a young black student Mike Washington (Frederick Phillips) who is friends with Sam (Janet Pawlak) the white idealistic town cutie who dreams of better things than being a KKK bride to Jesse. The triple Ks frame ninja Chris who tried to stop Mike's beatdown, so he dons his cross trainers and, with Sam in tow, goes running in the woods. And they run some more. And run a little more. And, yes, even some more. I think the woods put up the majority of funding for this flick.

I have to say this: Janet Pawlak, who is a cutie despite her nearly-up-to-her-armpits 80s jeans, runs with all the grace of a coked up orangutan. Seriously, it’s distracting. When she briefly clambers over a tree branch, it was one of the most graceless movements I have ever witnessed a human being perform. Maybe it's the jeans' fault.

The fight scenes are, without a doubt, some of the most inept I have ever witnessed. Lord and Boyett may have black belts but they have no idea of how to fight for the camera, and director Karl Armstrong doesn’t know the first thing about staging a movie fight. Also decent "chop socky" fight sound effects might have helped sell some of this mess, but those were also absent.

The judo flips in the old Charlie’s Angels series were much more convincing. Speaking of which, Boyett appears to have invented the shoulder roll (don't tell William Shatner or Robert Conrad -- two guys who had mastered that move -- about this) -- at least that's what you would think after watching him do that move eight or nine times in the movie, whether he is fighting or not. In fact, after he checks into his motel early in the movie, he goes out for a little exercise and meditation in the park and the first thing he does is a shoulder roll! For NO apparent reason!

Pretty much everyone in the cast is a non-actor. Boyett, here in his first and only movie credit, makes me long for the early days of Chuck Norris. Norris was never much of an actor either, but he at least had presence (and a cool beard). Boyett is beyond bland, and quite beardless.

"Bland" pretty much sums up this nutty ninja caper.

Now, the end credits had something I've never seen before. They credit the group of people at the KKK rally as "Ku Klux Klan members," which is fine, but a group of black people who show up to confront the Klan are credited under the heading, "Blacks." OMG, right?

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