I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear

tn_ninjaiiNINJA II: SHADOW OF A TEAR is the kind of action movie I always want more of: a pretty simple story about a badass in a personal conflict, stubbornly entrenched in the distinct values of a warrior subculture, with some absurdity but no joking around, and designed to deliver a whole bunch of great fight scenes done by real martial artists with lots of long takes, the camera always carefully composed and steady, moving in ways that always emphasize action and never obscure it. In other words it’s the long-awaited new Isaac Florentine/Scott Adkins joint.

Adkins plays Casey Bowman, sensei of a ninjitsu dojo in Japan that he inherited from the father of his pregnant wife Namiko (Mika Hijii), sort of like young Seagal did his aikido school. Life is ninjasational until some motherfuck murders Casey’s wife with an unusual barb wire inspired weapon. Since he’s a ninja he follows a “no snitching” policy with the cops and then takes a guess at who might’ve done it (two guys that tried to rob him the other day), tracks them down and brutally ninjures them in a dark alley. (Actually he murders them, but I thought maybe I could coin a term there, so I went for it.) Then he takes up an offer from his ole friend Nakabara (Kane Kosugi, son of ’80s ninja movie king Sho Kosugi, as well as child star of many of those movies himself) to come train at his dojo in Thailand and get his mind off things.

Instead of calming his mind, though, this sabbatical makes things worse because he finds out about a drug kingpin named Goro (Shun Sugata, ICHI THE KILLER) who split from their ninja clan and might have actually been the killer. So he sets out on a re-revenge mission.

mp_ninjaiiWe get alot of the fundamental fight set ups: guys trying to rob him in an alley, bar brawl with drunk asshole and his gang of martial artist buddies, sparring that goes too far, jungle ambush, and my favorite, walking into a dojo and challenging everybody there. That’s an old Bruce Lee classic. In this one he’s not challenging their fighting style, he’s just beating information out of them. He traces the muggers to this dojo based on a kick one of them used! The best part is that he stops to take off his shoes first. I think it’s a nod to BILLY JACK, but what I love is that he’s respectful enough to go barefoot but not worried enough to bother taking off his jacket.

Oh, here’s a good one: he takes a knife from an attacker, takes a moment to note a symbol on its hilt. You know it’s gonna somehow be relevant later. I love that old saw. It’s as good as the one where he kills somebody and then pulls up their sleeve to see a tattoo that identifies them as part of some faction. That one’s not in NINJA II, but it would’ve fit right in.

There are many fights, all of them exciting. He gets shot at, he uses grenades, he makes some DIY ninja devices that come in handy. There are some knife fights, alot of furniture gets destroyed, a couple unusual weapons make an appearance. He sneaks around, journeys, etc. He steals a bag of vintage ninja weapons and costume from a grave and uses them. That’s hardcore, man. He goes on a trip and doesn’t even bring his own ninja gear with him, he just figures he can grave rob what he needs.

Also he’s forced to fight meth in one part, and then fight a bunch of guys. He does well. I don’t think it’s a drunken master type of situation, I think he’s just so good that he goes into automatic fighting machine mode even when he’s zonked out. As soon as the fight ends he turns wobbly again.

At one point he gets captured and tortured by a corrupt general played by Vithaya Pansringarm, the mad cop swordsman from ONLY GOD FORGIVES. He’s not really a fighter in this one, though. A more involved duel is the one with fight choreographer Tim Man, playing Goro’s #1 henchman (basically the role that Adkins played opposite Van Damme in Florentine’s THE SHEPHERD: BORDER PATROL).

The box calls it NINJA II (with SHADOW OF A TEAR written real small under that), the movie itself calls it NINJA: SHADOW OF A TEAR, no numeral. I think NINJA II sounds better, but it makes some sense to play down that it’s a part 2. There’s no information that you need from part 1 to understand it, and I don’t think anybody who saw it unaware would guess that it was a sequel. It does have one little bit for part 1 fans when a character makes reference to seeing Casey spar with fellow clan member Masazuka, apparently not knowing that the two later fought to the death. (Trivia for NINJA series newcomers: Casey was actually an orphan raised by the ninja clan, not just some white boy who came in and took over. That’s why he speaks Japanese and knows all the weapons and everything.)

I highly recommend this movie to anybody who likes ninja movies, and I recommend that people who don’t like ninja movies learn how to like ninja movies and then later maybe watch this one. However before I get you too hyped up let me say that when I tore open the blu-ray and put it on I had a good time but didn’t fall instantly in love. I was laughing and getting excited but it wasn’t a high like I got from a modern classic like THE RAID or TOM YUM GOONG or even UNDISPUTED III. I liked it but did I love it like I expected?

NINJA had certain qualities that I miss in the sequel, but I guess I’m a bigger fan of that than most people. It doesn’t seem to be as popular among Florentinians as the UNDISPUTEDs, and both Florentine and Adkins have distanced themselves from it, saying it’s too “comic booky.” Because of that I’ll forgive the lack of silliness like the oil company goons who are also robe-wearing cultists. But I think two things that make the first one special are:

1) A really solid villain with a legitimate, relatable point of view (he feels he was screwed over by the clan in favor of this gaijin) and

2) They were fighting over a box of old weapons! Not even magic ones. This shows that they’re serious ninjas, that they take these clan traditions seriously. I love that the movie has the balls to use that as the motive. We just gotta respect that this box of old dusty shit is important to them, they don’t try to tickle our balls with some bullshit about they gotta stop the bad guys from opening up another dimension and taking over the world or something.

The sequel has a few clever tricks up its sleeve, but mostly it’s a standard sadistic criminal villain (with occasional poetic calligraphy interludes – theory of evil juxtaposition) and a staightforward revenge motive. And those are both classics, I dig ’em, they just lack some of the novelty of the first NINJA.

Also, I figured this going in, but it’s kinda disappointing to see Namiko, who was involved in full-on fight sequences in the first one (including my favorite, the subway fight), just get killed at the beginning without getting to fight back. I know the excuse is that she’s pregnant, but this is Isaac Florentine we’re talking about here, I know he can do a good pregnant lady fighting a ninja attacker scene. Oh well, at least she got some genuine husband-wife sweetness in the scene where she’s embarrassed about her weird pregnant lady food cravings. It’s nice to have a little human foundation in a movie like this as long as it doesn’t take up most of the screen time.

By the way, now might be as good a time as any to admit that it was a bad idea for me to always spell it NINJ* with the asterisk representing a throwing star. It seemed funny at the time but it made people have trouble searching for the review. And obviously I want people to have access to all the NINJA information available, I want complete NINJA transparency.

There are other ways that SHADOW OF A TEAR is a clear improvement. The most important one is Adkins, I think acting-wise he’s way more badass. People who had a problem with Casey Bowman in part 1 will definitely feel better about him in part II. Also this one’s better looking, shot on location mostly in Thailand, while the original looked artificial and cheesy in parts due to some soundstage and green screen stuff.

Anyway, I watched it a second time and I wondered what my earlier self’s problem was. I was tired the first time and weighed down by the baggage of high expectations. And I’m no bellboy. The second time I still loved Casey’s hunting and taunting of the muggers, but had more appreciation for the attack on the jungle fortress, the reveal of a secret room by having a character get thrown through a wall, and the interesting ninja politics that go down at the very end.

And that he chops the head off a fucking cobra! Nature’s answer to the ninja.

I have a couple buddies who saw it at Fantastic Fest. One had watched most of Florentine’s movies, the other hadn’t even seen NINJA. Both raved about what was then called NINJA: SHADOW OF A TEAR. They told me some of the parts the crowd went crazy for, including the hall-of-fame-worthy line of badass dialogue spoiled in the trailer. It’s just too bad, almost no one gets to see movies like this with a crowd anymore. Even when there’s a Statham, Stallone or Schwarzenegger movie released theatrically I go see it and there’s hardly anybody there. And actually if they were able to see this one it would probly be more of a crowdpleaser than some of those, but it gets ghettoized to our living rooms.

Oh well. One thing I’ve noticed about ninjas: you’ll regret trying to fuck ’em over.

acr_ninjaiiFun NINJA II trivia:

* If you turn on the subtitles there’s a part where they call him a “gaijin” but the subtitles say “kaiju.”

* I’m still not sure what exactly “Shadow of a Tear” means. Something about how he’s real sad or something.

* Can I illegally download movies like this? Sure I can. If I did that, what would I deserve in my eyeballs? Shuriken. Please support the production of independent badass movies by actually paying for them.

And that’s my last review of 2013. Happy new year everybody.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 31st, 2013 at 3:05 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

68 Responses to “Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear”

  1. Thanks for the review, Vern! May you give us many more in 2014.

  2. Another great review! I like the comments about the first film. It was refreshing to see an action film without a stupid McGuffin that makes no sense. As for supporting the movie but buying it? Being a UK resident, I’d love to. Any idea if the US Blu is region free?

  3. I’ll watch it for the action…still not sold on Adkins though, I mean, I know the guy can fight and all, but nothing I’ve seen him in so far shows even a faint hint of charisma.

  4. Hope we get to see Dolph & Adkins in TOMB OF THE DRAGON. It’s getting a Theatrical release in China right now.

  5. Great review and I loved this movie despite the very simple story( or maybe because of it). There is one correction that should be made. Kane Kosugi is the son of the great Sho Kosugi. Shane Kosugi is his brother. I usually don’t chime in on stuff like that but I loved Enter the Ninja when I was a kid and Sho Kosugi is a name I never forget.

  6. What I like about this movie is that the fights get better and better as it moves along. But they still have the sense to hold back in the second to last, making the end fight the best. As Verns says they follow the rules for this kind of movie so closely that it really could have been a Dudikoff joint in 1987, only with worse fights. Out of respect I won’t comment on the acting. Is it just me or does Adkins need a beard to look cool? Kane Kosugi (son of SHO, Vern) doesn’t get much to do, but he’s a cool presence. I saw ELEPHANT WHITE the day before this and noticed that they’ve re-used some street scenes here. What’s that about? I’ve seen this only once and like the first one better, but that could change.

    Richard, it took me three days to get it from Amazon UK. A bit expensive, but…

  7. Felix, according to Chinese press LEGENDARY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON is a family movie – and we all know what Chinese family movies are like – so I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

  8. A little tip for those who can’t wait – or afford to but the movie – it’s on youtube right now. I don’t know what Vern has to say about that or what he’ll do to your eyeballs. But I don’t think you’re scum if you take a look.

  9. Easily my favorite Adkins / Florentine joint yet. So good.

  10. I’m just gonna leave this full international trailer for THE RAID 2: BERENDAL here…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=IKkMrgnGVgw

  11. Looks that Best Buy gift card can stop burning a hole in my pocket now.

  12. I got this in the mail by UPS late last night. I tried to tough it out and watch the whole thing, but I only made it to the “meth” fight, but I’m loving what I’ve seen so far. Also, I have to say the “WWII news footage” of ninjas vs. GI’s is just as goofy and fun as any number of cult member/oil tycoons… but that’s just me.

  13. I was already pretty pumped for this, but now that I know there is a scene depicting NINJAS VS GIs, well, I guess I’m going to go out and pick this up tonight.

    Also, Happy New Year to Vern and to all you people that love badass cinema.

  14. I actually liked the first one, but part 2 is a big improvement. As usual, all of the hand to hand fights are a joy to watch. Hopefully someone is paying attention and Florentine & Adkins get some bigger projects thrown their way. They deserve it.

    Top fights:
    -drunk Casey vs. drunk people at a bar
    -NinjaCasey vs. Goro’s assistant
    -Climactic Casey vs. ??????? showdown (it’s a spoiler)

    I’m still a bigger fan of the Undisputed movies, though. Boyka is just a lot more charismatic than CASEY-SAN: WHITE GUY WHO HANGS OUT AT DOJOS.

  15. LEGENDARY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON is also on youtube. And it’s…well, I’ll let you find out for yourselves.

  16. Glorious. Florentine, Adkins, & crew keep making movies specifically designed for my personal enjoyment.

    They can leave the wheel-reinvention to other ambitious filmatists as long as they keep pumping out classical classics like this.

    Coulda used more females, though.

    Also it would have been cool if Casey somehow used the poison from the decapitated cobra to make special kill-darts or acupuncture tools, or if he had cooked & eaten the cobra meat.

    “SHADOW OF A TEAR” is the only visual hint that Casey is in your vicinity. He uses darkness & deception to stay ninjvisible until he’s disarming & dismembering you, but in the aftermath of his wife’s murder he might lose control & shed a single tear, causing the faintest ripple in the light before he attacks. It’s his only weakness, so he must get revenge on those who caused him to cry.

  17. Spot on assessment, Vern. I watched it last night after work and I think fatigue kept me from fully embracing it, amazing fights aside. The plot twist at the end was pretty well telegraphed, wasn’t it? Anyway, the action and location filming definitely boosted this film over the original’s Bulgarian backlot work and the copious CGI bloodshed.

    Funny how you posted the Vietnamese poster art. It’s simply titled NINJA II: REVENGE.

  18. Surprisingly, …the film is already up on Netflix streaming. Is that some kind of record? I mean the disc was just released today.

    Anyway, watch it legally and if you watch it on Netflix… rate it highly if you enjoy it. We gotta support these endeavors if we want more.

  19. As a cinema-as-art idealist, I avoid most debate & jibber-jabber about budgets, since that $$$ stuff sullies the purity of my favorite things. But, despite the internet telling me this was a small production, NINJ** looks & sounds really good. There are neither glaring flaws nor obvious lack-of-money-based shortcuts in the a/v presentation, the filmatism, or the disc. Quite a change from dtv of yesteryear (like barely 4 years ago).

    And beyond that, I peeped the Netflix streaming version (That was quick!), and it also looks fucking phenomenal. And the Nf subtitles were arguably better than the disc’s subtitles. I know I’m not supposed to praise the video store killer corporate behemoth, but this is, like, crystal clear HD online, another huge improvement over the video quality of yesteryear. There were no interruptions, no buffering; I could pick out Scott Adkins’s individual pores & stubble stubs & beads of sweat. Could probably find an actual shadow of a tear if I looked more fastidiously.

    _________________

    Before I take off to party like it’s 1999 (I miss the Clinton era.) (also a Prince reference to pacify Vern before I commence gratuitous list-posting), here’s a list of my favorite Films Of Cinema & tv/pop/cinema-type things of 2013:

    #1) MAN OF TAI CHI

    The Colbert Report

    SPRING BREAKERS

    “The Majestyk” episode of American Dad (nothing to do with this websight’s Majestyk)

    “Uprising” episode of Switched at Birth (I almost cried.) (Never seen another episode and don’t have to.)

    NINJA 2: DON’T KILL SCOTT ADKINS’S WIFE HE DOESN’T LIKE THAT

    Sydney Leathers’s 15+ minutes of fame (I loved it. She’s an American success story.)

    THE WORLD’S END

    The Simpsons

    Key & Peele (“Moor please.”)

    FAST & FURIOUS: THE TANK CHRONICLES

    Beyonce’s self-titled “Visual Album” videos (Awesome. She’s the more talented one in that power couple.)

    The Minnesota Timberwolves when Rubio & Pekovic are in the line-up together, especially that time they scored 47 points in the 1st quarter

    the first hour of WOLF CHILDREN (2nd hour is pretty good)

    That time Marc Gasol attacked Derrick Favors with a loose shoe

    Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23
    (There’s a joke/threat in the first 3 minutes of episode 2.6 “Wknd in The Hamptons” that I might never stopping laughing at. Krysten Ritter is amazing. She & Enver Gjokaj should do a movie/show together as manic siblings.)

    Abby Huntsman, the reason HDTV exists, talking to the camera on MSNBC’s The Cycle
    (You can google image search her, but seeing her make eye contact with you through the tv is spellbinding.
    Whoever does her hair/wardrobe/makeup should get all the awards. I’d go Mormon for that.)

    Snoop’s reggae album (I always have 10+ varieties of fruits & juices in my kitchen.)

    JOHN DIES AT THE END (Mouth’s Best Director of 2013 Award goes to Coscarelli.)

    Axe Cop

    This scene in GANGSTER SQUAD where Sean Penn yells “Here comes Santee Claus!” and proceeds to fire an entire drum of high caliber rounds into christmas ornaments, gift-wrapped boxes, candles, and a couple christmas trees. Not enough children saw this terrible film.

    TO THE WONDER

    reading many people’s confused, often idiotic thoughts regarding ONLY GOD FORGIVES

    ONLY GOD FORGIVES

    MACHETE KILLS (What’s up, Vanessa?)

  20. This movie is chock full of badassery from the get-go. Loved it, and I happily paid Amazon $12.99 for the digital download.

    I like how flimsy the setups were from one set piece to the next. Just get to the next beatdown. And I really enjoyed how Casey is just a straight up murderer in this. There’s something to be said for the straight up sociopathic revenge flick.

    Five *s

  21. happy New Year! here’s looking forward to many more great reviews and striving for excellence in the year to come!

  22. @Mouth.

    I hereby motion that the official title of this piece of filmatism be changed to Ninja: DKCWWHDLI!

  23. I was weak and went with a less than noble means of watching this, but I fully intend to purchase it when it’s a UK Release (or even a European Continent release, like my copy of UNDISPUTED III).

    Great stuff, only slightly ruined by a bit of predictability in the story. It’s fairly obvious how things are going to pan out, especially once Casey leaves for Burma. It doesn’t take away from the action though, which is top notch.

    Couple of other things:

    -This applies to the first movie, but how come if he was raised by Japanese people, Casey has an American accent as an adult? This is similar to the love interest in TOKYO DRIFT who has an Australian accent despite stating she never knew her Australian mother and was raised by locals.
    -Why didn’t that taxi driver at least get punched in the face? He didn’t even claim he had five kids to feet or anything.
    -Is everyone else from Casey’s dojo just useless or something? Seems to me we could have had a group of his students insisting on following him on his quest, despite his insistence that they stay out of it. Then we could have had multi-ninja action later on.
    -The credits say THIS movie was ‘Based on the movie “Ninja” written by Andy Hurst and Boaz Davidson’ which I don’t think I’ve ever seen done with a sequel’s credits before

  24. “…brutally ninjures them in a dark alley. (Actually he murders them, but I thought maybe I could coin a term there, so I went for it.)”

    Substitute “fatally” for “brutally”, and you’re gold.

  25. Casey kneels before his murdered wife’s modest shrine, staring at her photo in a broken frame,
    removing his wedding ring while gathering final motivation in preparation for his Ninj** revenge.
    Her blood reddens their home’s floor; I don’t think he plans to remove that stain.

  26. It’s a bit strange how much time they spend on Casey’s selfmade weapons in Burma and then he only use them sort of casually on a couple of backstreet thugs.

  27. Oh, but pegsman don’t forget the white powder grenade.

  28. He totally forgot the white powder grenade.

  29. I thought the same thing Pegsman. It’s my biggest complaint with this movie and the first one. Why call it Ninja and hardly have any Ninja action

  30. It depends on what you define Ninja Action as, doesn’t it? I mean, to me, he does a lot of Ninja stuff out of his costume in the movie. Starting with trying avoid fighting those thugs at the beginning by hiding, then later ambushing them in the dark, stealthily getting out of the police station, and hiding in the foliage in the jungle.

  31. You just don’t do ninja stuff out of costume. Sho Kosugi would never do that. You can do every crazy martial arts move there is, but when it’s time to hit the bad guys’ lair you get the costume out and start using the weapons. Which you need an awful lot of since you can only kill one guy with each weapon.

  32. Richard Harrison never did crazy ninja stuff outside his camouflage ninja outift neither

  33. Ah, Richard Harrison! No one has done more ninja movies than Richard Harrison. Sadly, most of them without his knowledge. I wonder what the reasoning was when they cast him as a ninja master? “Find someone who has a moustache that looks a bit like Franco Nero’s. He didn’t know any martial arts either, but he had a great moustache.”

  34. Apparently Richard Harrison blamed Godfrey Ho for his career downfall. I have no great insight into the mysterious shoots of these maniacal cut and paste ninja movies (of which the even more mysterious Pierre Kirby was part of). I do reckon Harrison has himself to blame to agree on the contract signings on these more than obscure, but highly entertaining rubbish.

  35. I recommend anyone to track down the NINJA UNTOUCHABLES/MONKEY WITH 72 MAGIC dvd. Not only do you get Godfrey Ho ninja lunacy at its finest but also one of the craziest chinese kung fu flicks ever made. Helped by the cropped image where the subtitles are barely visible and good luck figuring out what the hell is going on. It also comes with INSTA-ACTION!

  36. Twasn’t very ninja of him to not realize he didn’t have his wallet when he went to the store, either. That’s just poor situational awareness. I’m all the time patting my pockets to ensure I’ve got my essential ninja/consumer items on my person before I go out the door.

    But all these minor nitpicks contribute to the benign, knowing (but not too winkingly knowing) silliness of the film. It’s 110% okay if the murder-revenge plot is telegraphed the first instant we see the pretty woman exchange smiles with the hero.

    I’m more perturbed that Adkins keeps making movies where he has to stifle his natural Russian accent.

    #FreeBoyka

  37. I don’t know why he had to forget his wallet in the first place. Normally, that’s a trick to get a character to come home earlier than other characters could have foreseen, thus creating tension. But that’s not what happens here. How much longer would it have taken him to leave that store if he’d had the cash on him? He was already at the register, so a minute, tops? You expect him to get home just in time to catch a glimpse of the murderer, but nope, that dude is long gone. Everything is exactly how it would have been if he hadn’t had to come back for his wallet. It has no consequences on the way the story plays out.

    But of course he had to forget his wallet, because that’s what happens in this kind of movie. When the hero has to leave his home in the middle of the night on a mundane errand, he forgets his wallet and comes back unexpectedly. It’s just the way these things work. This is not a movie to fuck with a working formula, even when it doesn’t apply it properly.

    Good movie, though. I liked how he was just bodying up motherfuckers left and right, even if they were only tangentially related to his revenge mission. And then the twist happens and he doesn’t even seem the slightest bit phased that he just murdered like 50 people for no reason. He’s just pissed that he hasn’t killed the right one yet.

    The action was great, lacking only a jaw-dropper of a stunt to really bring it home. All the fights are well done but none of the moves really stick out. Everything that was there was very entertaining but I think they needed a centerpiece stunt, a real show-stopper that you remember long afterwards. Other than that, I can’t complain. It’s as solid a meat-and-potatoes action flick as I’ve seen in a minute.

  38. He had to forget his wallet in order to remind us of the fact that he was held up by those 2 wallet-jacking goons, thus connecting the petty local crime with the inciting wifeicide with the Big Conspiracy.

    Scott Adkins is the soberest, most effective Drunken Ninja ever
    and the most focused, most effective Drugged-Up Ninja ever.
    Don’t mess with his fam-lay, and don’t try to alter his brain chemistry.

    They started to give him undrugged, raw open-skull surgery in UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, and the results for the heavies & thugs around him were no better. Many unnecessary, enjoyable deaths.

  39. Another thing about those thugs that’s kind of a big plot hole:

    SPOILER CRAWL SO THE SPOILERS AREN’T SPOILED ON THE SIDEBAR ABOUT RECENT POSTS

    So it turns out they were sent by Nakabara, right? That’s why they had those knives with the symbols on them matching the ones at the Thailand dojo. But…Casey finds them by finding out they train at a completely different dojo in Japan. So are they Nakabara’s students or not? And if they aren’t, why’ve they got those knives, unless to unintentionally tip Casey off at the end? And actually, why where the thugs even sent after him in the first place if Nakabara was pinning it on Goro? And also, did anyone else find it funny when Namiko is asking him if he’s sure about not calling the police because “they’re still out there”, he goes “nah, just a couple of punks. They’re gone”, completely ignoring the other “maybe doing your civic duty and put some nasty criminals behind bars so other people don’t get cut for their shit” side of things. I guess Casey isn’t a member of the Stop Snitching movement.

  40. All good points Stu, I had the same nagging thoughts about them. My weak rationalization is that Casey was steered into killing them so he would have to go to Thailand in order to hide out from the law. It’s the problem with a lot of movie conspiracies of this type: they actually rely too much on not just predicting the behavior of other people, but their timing too.

  41. This is straight out of the Sam Firstenberg/Michael Dudikoff Ninja Handbook. And I for one appreciate that Florentine and Adkins stick close to that kind of film making. These movies are all about the fights.

  42. YES THERE ARE SPOILERS. Good question about which dojo the thugs were from. They seemed to be locals. Nakabara was in town, so maybe he recruited them and then gave them the knives as a thank you. But you’re right, it seems like he could’ve left out the framing of thugs and just framed Goro from the start.

    I kinda wished that the thugs weren’t even involved in the plot, because he went so overboard in handling them if they were just failed muggers.

  43. Damn, Tim Man is from Sweden! I wonder if he prefers the Swedish THE NINJA MISSION over the Norwegian NORWEGIAN NINJA?

  44. The Undefeated Gaul

    January 3rd, 2014 at 5:37 am

    Just saw your comment on the Budomate website, Vern. Had to smile when the guy asked you if you know who Scott Adkins is.

    http://www.budomate.com/best-martial-arts-movie-2013/

    As for how suspicious the landslide victory in all categories is, I assume it’s just Adkins fans getting linked by his Facebook to a site they never heard of, to vote for the guy because he asked and they want to support him. I know that’s what I did.

  45. Thanks for pointing that out, Gaul. My comment was actually referring to AMERICAN BRAWLER, which was winning almost all the categories at the time I voted even though it’s an Asylum movie that has not yet been released and has not gotten good reviews so far. Seemed suspicious. But now NINJA II is getting its revenge.

  46. You might want to go back and clarify that, Vern. Right now you kind of come off like a troll.

  47. I understand there is definitely a marketplace for subpar story telling that only scratches the itch of those initiated. I have been a fan of this website for as long as I have been following websites. I have also been a fan of Florentine and when I heard that this was going to be a big step up, I thought story telling wise. I think a handful of directors have shown over the past twenty years that shooting great action is not rocket science. Yet Hollywood continues to resist. And then I watch Shadow of a Tear and think that Hollywood might only hire Florentine for a 2nd unit gig because the dude doesn’t have a clue of how to match actual great action with an emotional beat in the story. All of Shadow of a Tear’s best action moments are “narratively” speaking when Adkins is a dumbass and kills the wrong people. I am sorry, but fuck that noise. I like it when I am rooting for the protagonist to survive against whatever odds in pursuit of his goal. But when Adkins acts like Dumb and Dumber To, sorry, I just check out.

  48. And I still use Die Hard as an example. McClane fucks up a little and the SWAT team gets bombed to shit. He takes ownership. Hence allowing me to still care that McClane is fighting. Adkins (sorry, he’s never a character, he’s just Adkins) allows a lot of people to be killed or does most of the killing himself that should not have been killed. And he never once reflects, meditates, seeks spiritual enlightenment (one of the fundamental tenets of most martial arts)? Why do I care about this asshole? Our opening scene is him putting a beatdown on his pregnant wife but because he pulls his punches and smiles at the end, it is not meant to be embarrassing? Remember the culture people. Still embarrassing for her and not in a cool way.

  49. MDM, with those standards there can’t be many action movies you actually like. Violent acts are by definition evil. And stupid. Evil men do evil things to even more evil men. That’s what it’s all about. McClane could have contacted the police. Dirty Harry should have followed the law. Paul Kersey would be better off drawing buildings. But that’s drama, not action. Reflection, meditation and spiritual enlightenment, that’s for samurais who sit down when they pee. Casey Bowman is a ninja. He’s an assassin, a blunt instrument trained to kill people for money. Ninjas don’t follow the rules or have any code of honor. And NINJA II is about a ninja out to revenge his wife’s death. He doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process. And in that respect I think Florentine is doing just fine.

  50. And it’s not like anybody Casey killed was innocent. Thugs, robbers, gangsters, crooked cops, meth dealers, murderers, mercenaries… These are the kinds of guys McClane or any other action hero worth his salt would take out without batting an eye. Are we supposed to feel bad that this human scum has been exterminated simply because Casey didn’t technically have a personal beef with any of them?

  51. “Our opening scene is him putting a beatdown on his pregnant wife but because he pulls his punches and smiles at the end, it is not meant to be embarrassing? Remember the culture people. Still embarrassing for her and not in a cool way.”
    I don’t agree with that. He’s the Sensei of that dojo, and she’s a student. Are you saying they shouldn’t spar?

  52. 3 weeks short of the 6 year anniversary of when RAMBO came into our unworthy lives, haven’t we learned that when an angry [anti-]hero enters Burma all living beings are fair game to suffer his wrath?

    Also, the opening sparring match is sex.
    Florentine is too respectful of the notion of perfect narrative economy to weigh down his film with an actual sex scene, so he conflates intercourse & romantic love with a friendly fight scene. I’m grateful for this choice.

  53. I loved the whole movie (what’s not to love), but this quote was without a doubt the best part:

    – “Casey, remember: the man who seeks revenge should dig two graves.”
    – “They’re gonna need a lot more than that.”

    Instant classic.

  54. Okay, so this may be a little too late as I was away from the internet for a few days, but I wanted to respond to those who took issue with my comments.

    First of all, I am talking about storytelling, the functions of narrative and screenwriting. Die Hard is really about a guy that is trying to get his wife back, not about a hostage situation. The hostage situation just provides the external obstacles to his quest. So the entire movie is him overcoming all of these odds and bad guys to win back his wife.

    Or to use a more recent material – Man of Tai Chi is another nice narrative. There we have a main hero that has a clearly defined arc and every scene is built around defining that arc. I honestly felt like the fight with his Master in Man of Tai Chi was the most amazing fight because it was a personal fight where he was not necessarily trying to defeat his master as much as he was trying to destroy that part of himself.

    My point about Ninja is that from a narrative perspective, it constantly and consistently contradicts the “hero’s arc” or even worse, renders it irrelevant.

    Vengeance movies are by their very nature stories that allow for quick and easy empathy, and in some cases, sympathy for the main character. That places the viewed in the emotionally invested position of experiencing the journey with the main character. It is this quality that makes Ninja so disappointing. I actively thought that Adkins’ character was kind of an ass. And by the end he is still an ass that killed a whole bunch of people that were unnecessary to his journey and his quest. Action is exciting because of the external conflict it represents for the character. That exists in the first fight scene and the final fight scene and no others from a narrative standpoint. And I don’t buy the argument that the hero did not know that because that is what I mean by having a character take ownership. If he did all of this and none of it was necessary to his actual quest/arc, then there have to be consequences for the character and there are none.

    I am not trying to tear down a movie a lot of you obviously like. I quite liked a lot of the cinematography and the style of filming action. I get a little frustrated though when there is no real reason for most of the action to have existed. A movie does not have to be the equivalent of a gourmet meal for me to like it. But it does have to be a well executed grilled cheese if that is what it is. This sandwich was a little sloppy.

  55. MDM, I still think you’re missing the point. If you accept that Casey was set up, why does his actions have to have consequences? Yes, he’s a bit of an asshole. He’s a professional killer. And this is the story of how he revenged the death of his wife. A well executed grilled cheese, if you ask me.

  56. My experience with Ninja II has been a really bad one thus far. I’ve sat down to watch it four different times and I’ve still not finished it yet. I like Scott Adkins but that dude has no charisma what so ever when he’s not playing a Russian. I am finding it extremely hard to care about this plight because he shows no emotions.

    The other problem I have is all the fight so far have had no drama to them one bit. There is never any sense that he’s not going to win every fight he’s in. I mean, this dude is invincible. It’s really boring.

    Also, Kane Kosugi’s goatee is so extremely distracting because it totally looks fake. I’m half expecting him to take it off to reveal he’s really the evil Ninja dude from the first one in disguise.

  57. Sternshein – I thought Adkins was really good in DAY OF RECKONING. He got to display some emotional range with his character losing his family, though he pretty much went from emotional in the first act, to stunned mullet in the second act while he was trying to work out what was going on. And then he became bad ass in the third act.

    Ninja 2 hasn’t come out here yet so I can’t comment on it but NINJA 1 was great.

    I grew up watching the Dudikoff ninja movies, lots of Bruce Lee, a few Norris(couldn’t really get into those) and the Kosugi ninja ones. Van Damme and Seagal came into my orbit a few years later. Adkins reminds me(looks-wise) of a cross between Ryan Reynolds and Ben Affleck, but with a lot of rough edges. As far as the requirements for an action hero go I reckon he’s got a ton of charisma. He comes across confident and, maybe because of his good looks, vulnerable at the same time. And he’s got a mean glare too, I’m thinking Boyka, which makes him a bit crazy, in a good way.

  58. It could be a interesting and valuable piece of information. I’m thankful that you embraced this useful info here. You should be united states updated similar to this. Appreciate discussing.

  59. *SPOILERS* I have to kind of agree with Sternshein – the first 3/4 of this movie, while technically well-done and obviously well-choreographed, just didn’t do it for me. Adkins tries hard but he just doesn’t have the magnetism and charisma down yet. His acting style worked in Unisol but not really here. And yeah – the fights are so one-sided that I just found myself zoning out of them. How you may ask, can I love Seagal movies like Out for Justice or Marked for Death where he barely gets hit, but then an endless series of incredibly complex fights in Ninja II completely bores me? I have no idea, maybe Seagal’s fighting style makes for more cinematic one-sided fights, who knows.

    The final three fights (not coincidentally, the ones where the opponents actually get some hits on Atkins) are absolutely incredible though – if you haven’t finished this Sternshein, you have to finish just for that. Unfortunately, the “twist” is dumb and obvious (it’s not like they were gonna cast this guy and not have him actually fight). I don’t have any problems with Casey killing the “wrong” people like MDM because I guess the movie shows they were all scumbags anyway. (I should say “creeps” instead of scumbags since I’m pretty sure this entire plot was taken directly from Death Wish 4.)

  60. I think Seagal’s one-sided fights are entertaining to watch because he’s such a smug dick about it. In OUT FOR JUSTICE he’s such an obnoxious asshole in that bar fight that I feel bad for all the poor chumps getting their teeth bashed in with billiard balls etc. Adkins in NINJA 2 is just sort of mopey and angry.

  61. Yeah and one more thing – not to continue being Mr. PC but I do think Ninja II has a slight race problem. While the “white hero takes on ethnic villains” thing is a well-worn and typical set-up that normally doesn’t bother me (otherwise I’d probably be mad at about 75% of martial arts movies), it rubbed me the wrong way here. Every main minority character is a villain, from the fake bad guy to the real bad guy to the Apu-style stereotypical cab driver with the “comically” long last name and was I imagining things or was he really name-dropping curry about 30 seconds into his appearance? I mean, Jeff Speakman’s The Perfect Weapon gave him an Asian mentor and a sidekick at least. Sure, stereotypical roles in themselves but shit, it’s SOMETHING.

    And as Vern says, his wife, who was a strong character and memorably held her own in Ninja I, is relegated to cameo and helpless victim this time around. I’m not arguing Atkins should have been re-cast as Asian, and I’m not arguing the plot should have been changed so Kosugi wouldn’t be the villain. That’s fine, keep it all – just give the wife something to do and make the cab driver something other than a weaselly, spineless stereotype and I probably wouldn’t have noticed these issues in the first place.

  62. Yeah, I complained about the wife getting Fridged when the trailer came out. It’s a pity because she was quite good in the first one.

    The race issues didn’t bother me too much because it’s an old-fashioned, 80-style action film where that kind of stuff (the heroic white ninja, the weaselly cab driver, corrupt foreigners etc) seems right at home. It’s almost innocent in the way it gorges itself on action movie tropes without trying too hard to subvert them or play off your expections.

  63. Byłem orzeźwiająco po ślubie zaś.

  64. Got a chance to interview Isaac Florentine about Ninja 2 recently (it’s only just been released on Region 2). A super cool guy. Really gracious and humble, and he gave some great answers: http://www.krank.ie/category/entertainment/interview-director-isaac-florentine-ninja-shadow-tear/

  65. Great interview, Padre. That would actually be kind of incredible if they brought him back to do the Power Rangers reboot.

  66. Bought the dvd.Watched the film. Fucking loved it. Probably the best DTV I have ever seen. Not only does it look great (A Millenium/Nu Image film that looks great?! WTF?), it has the best and most spectacular martial arts choreography I have seen in an american martial arts film since Mark Dacascos kicked ass in DRIVE and it has a sleak narrative that this kind of film benefits from. I can tell this is a labor of love by Florentine/Adkins and it shines.

    Some nitpicks though ( it might have been adresses in the comments above): Minor Spoilers…

    *The fact that the first people Casey Ninja takes out his rage on are the same assholes that tried to rob him earlier was a bit weird at first. I gather since they got his address from his drivers licence in the wallet he assumed they would come after him perhaps. I mean, Casey couldn´t at this stage know that they worked for the main bad guy who was responsible for the wife-murder,right?

    * I don´t really care for the amount of motions Casey has to go through in Burma to get to Goros compound. It includes befriending “Myanmar-Mike”. There is a section of the film halfway through that includes; pretending to be a drugbuyer, escaping the police, being caught by the police, torture,escaping again before he actually look up the ninja weapons. He should have done that first and then force some guy to give up Goros location. That shit should have been simpler, I feel.

    But there is so much awesome shit in this film that I can forgive that. My favourite part is the shot where Casey beheads Goro. Very artistic shot.

    Oh, yeah. I also watched a little movie called THE RAID 2 after that. Yesterday was the best day in a long time!

  67. Isn´t when he takes of his shoes a nod to FIST OF LEGEND? I am pretty sure Jet Li took off his shoes when entering the dojo.

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