Kung-Fu-riday on Saturday: Ninja Hunter
1987 ninja movie
Rating: 12/20 (I guess. I almost feel like using a different rating system for these. I'd give this four fists of fury.)
Plot: Well, the alternate title pretty much sums it all up--Wu Tang vs. Ninja. And I'm not talking about the 90's rap troupe with RZA and DZA and BZA and the other ZA's and Ol' Dirty Bastard. Essentially, it's a white-haired guy with giant white eyebrows named Abbot White who wants to decimate Wu Tang.
And he nearly succeeds! Call it Eyebrow Power, I guess. See, Abbot White is able to become invincible by absorbing the essence of women he's with. He caresses them, there are terrible synth sound effects and a little smoke, and it's suddenly like the dude is made out of metal. He can also--at least I think this is what was going on--catch flowers on fire by pointing at them which you have to admit is a pretty badass super-villain power to have. Oh, and there's a scene where he disrobes a woman just by swiping his fingers around. It's the kind of thing that I'd be willing to go through hours and hours of tough cinematic kung-fu training to be able to accomplish. Just imagine being able to disrobe a woman from across the room by moving your fingers around and squinting your eyes a little bit. I'm not saying it's a gift I would use all that often. It would be unethical, and I'm not an unethical person. But it's the kind of thing I'd like to have in my back pocket just in case. Eyebrow Guy's got an army of ninjas including one with a Hitler mustache. Like in Duel to the Death, the ninjas in this do regular ninja things--scooting up trees, jumping great distances, slinking around, throwing stars, tossing bombs that explode in colorful smoke--but also have some supernatural gifts. They can, for example, disguise themselves as foliage. There's one scene where one of the good guys (as always, not nearly as interesting as the bad guys) somehow figures out that a shrub is actually a ninja and throws his sword into it/him, leading to a shot of the kind of absurd bleeding that is really the reason I watch movies like this. There are three main ninjas. There's a white-clad one, the aforementioned ninja with the Hitler mustache. There's a gold lamé ninja who uses a seemingly endless supply of these cool rings that sometimes explode. And there's a ninja in traditional black who is pretty boring until he turns into a fucking flying, fighting rug, the kind of kung-fu movie moment that is capable of inspiring a blogger to throw a fucking into the blog post. There are a lot of scenes showing the ninjas in training, but their action scenes show that we might be dealing with some low-quality ninjas. I did like an early scene where a couple of them soak themselves in acid (I think?) and turn themselves into kung-fu zombie guys. Another ninja scene has a great use of dummies. The nondescript good guys are climbing up the side of a cliff and attacked by a quartet of ninjas. They take care of two of them. The other two light what I think were sticks of dynamite, launch themselves at the good guys who of course just climb the rope really fast--Benny Hill fast!--to get away, and then turn into obvious dummies on fire. Supremely silly, but also about as awesome as it gets. The good guys are all pretty nondescript but are nonetheless flashy during the fight sequences. And that's one thing Ninja Hunter's got going for it. There's not a lot of slow in this movie. Director Kuo-Ren Wu isn't all that interested in telling a story here. Instead, he just puts this thing in the only gear he knows--F for Fighting--and lets it roll. Lots of fast-moving fight sequences filled with impressive acrobatics and creative choreography. My favorite fight scene in the movie is where a woman takes on the three ninjas and their weapons and actually holds her own. There's enough flipping and flapping in that scene for an entire kung-fu movie, but there's so much more here, including a pretty epic finale that only slightly disappoints with a silly ending. As I said, the plot is forgettable. You've got two sides fighting for reasons that are never really clear, and everything is so jumpy. It's difficult to tell both what is happening at times or how it's happening. The first half of the movie has a lot of scenes where it seems like brand new characters have stumbled into the wrong movie to fight for unknown reasons. But who cares because if you watch martial arts movies for the characterization and plot development, you've probably been finger-jabbed in the head too many times. That's the big move in this movie, by the way--the finger jab. The training sequence with the two guys who end up being the main characters involved some of the usual gymnastics and feats of strength but had a definite emphasis on strengthening the index fingers.