Sunday, February 2, 2014

"Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear" (2013)

Starring Scott Adkins, Kane Kosugi and Mika Hijii
Written by Boaz Davidson
Directed by Isaac Florentine
Rated R - Violence, language
Running Time: 95 Minutes

Casey (Scott Adkins) is an American living in Japan with his pregnant wife, Namiko (Mika Hijii). One evening while he's out running an errand, thugs break into his home and kill Namiko. Casey travels to Thailand to train at the dojo of his friend, Nakabara (Kane Kosugi) and to grieve for his dead wife and unborn child.

But it seems Casey's problems follow him - assassins attempt to kill him, but kill instead a member of Nakabara's dojo. Casey learns that a drug lord named Goro (Shun Sugata), an old enemy of his father-in-law, is responsible for Namiko's death. He heads to Myanmar to exact revenge, by taking apart Goro's criminal organization.

Nothing and no one is going to get in his way.

A simple setup is really all you need when your movie is little more than an excuse to stage a number of impressive hand-to-hand martial arts fights. If you're looking for deep drama or intricate plotting, look elsewhere. "Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear" is all about hard-hitting kicks and punches.

Despite its direct-to-video origins, and therefore obviously low budget, the fights in "Ninja II" are actually quite impressive. While not much of an actor, Scott Adkins proves himself a very fine fighter, dispatching Goro's thugs with all kinds of bone-crunching moves.

This is fine, old-school fight choreography. No fantastical wire work. No CGI. Just stuntmen taking hard hits and having their bodies slammed every which way through walls, doors and furniture.

Direction by Isaac Florentine isn't especially artful. But he's smart enough to know that with fights this cool, just let the actors do their thing and show it to us in a simple and effective manner. There are no fancy editing tricks to make things seem more intense - just the good stuff. So props to Mr. Florentine for not hiding all the impressive choreography behind shaky camera moves and fast edits.

There's very little else to say about "Ninja II." The film itself is simplistic, and doesn't aspire more than to be a showcase for Adkins' martial arts skills. And that's really all we need it to be. It flies by at a brisk 95 minutes, so it doesn't overstay its welcome, either.