14th Sep2014

‘Ninja Apocalypse’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Christian Oliver, Les Brandt, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Ernie Reyes Jr., Isaac C. Singleton Jr., Kaiwi Lyman, West Liang, Tara Macken, Antoinette Kalaj, Alvin Hsing, Bryan Cartago, Mark Heidelberger | Written by Ashley Scott Meyers | Directed by Lloyd Lee Barnett

Ninja-Apoc-cast

Not to be confused with the Don Wong starring, badly dubbed, poorly edited film of the same name – which I distinctly remember hiring from my local video shop – Ninja Apocalypse is set years after the great war, and the titular apocalypse, where humanity has become divided into separate clans of ninjas. Clans, which besides having your usual ninja-like martial arts skills, are also blessed with strange supernatural powers: some of which look like they stepped straight out of a video game – you know the type, the typical fireballs, lightning strikes and telekinesis.

Discovering a plot to attack their land, Grandmaster Fumitaka calls on the clans under his control to a meeting deep within an underground bunker left over from the war. However when Fumitaka is assassinated during his speech, the Lost Clan must battle their way up an underground nuclear bunker filled with hordes of supernatural enemies, mutants, flesh eating zombies and the odd ninja of course!

Obviously you don’t go into a film like this expecting high art. What you expect is a decent hook on which to hang some kick-ass action sequences and some bad-ass ninja action. And that’s exactly what writer Ashley Scott Meyers  and director Lloyd Lee Barnett deliver. As do their cast.

Christian Oliver, last seen as Arius in the John Morrison-starring Hercules Reborn, does a sterling job as Cage – leader of the Lost Clan and this films hero. He brings the qualities of a leader to his performance so much so that there is, even when its suggested otherwise, no  doubting his innocence in the death of Fumitaka and no doubting his ninja skills. And he has a great foil in West Liang as rival clan leader Becker, the animosity between their characters really sells the inter-clan rivalry that Fumitaka’s all-important meeting is to put an end to. The films two “big name” stars, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Ernie Reyes Jr. are wasted somewhat in small roles, as Fumitaka and his second, Hiroshi , respectively. But any chance to see Reyes Jr. unleash even some of his martial arts skills in a movie is worth anyone’s time.

As I said previously, all a film like this needs kick-ass action sequences, and thankfully Ninja Apocalypse is packed to the rafters with them! The fight sequences are all well choreographed and unlike a lot of straight to DVD action flicks, the fights aren’t edited to death or shot in such a way that they become an incomprehensible mess – making the most of the casts obvious fighting skills and the fight choreography; and the addition of “special powers” only heightens the films fast and furious fight scenes.

If you’re looking for a modern take on those [not so] classic ninja films – from the likes of Godfrey Ho, Joseph Lai et al -  that proliferated the VHS era of the 80s, look no further than Ninja Apocalypse. But it’s not just those cheesy chop-socky flicks and a wealth of video games that have influenced this film – there are echoes of Mortal Kombat, Big Trouble in Little China, The Warriors (which seems to have had the greatest effect on this movie) and even The Raid within the films brief 80-minute runtime. Yet at no point does the filmfeel like a rip-off of any of those films – it’s its own beast. And a damn fine, ninja-killing beast at that.

Well worth a watch and an essential purchase for fight film fans.

***** 5/5

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