When I was growing up, I always looked forward to the martial arts films that were shown every Saturday afternoon on the local television station Channel 4. These films weren’t the CLASSIC martial arts films of the 1970s, like “Enter the Dragon”, “Drunken Master”, “Five Deadly Venoms” and “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” among many others. They were the cheesy, low-budget, “fight scene every 5 minutes” films of the 1980s. Some were good and some were FUCKING AWFUL! But I didn’t care at that time in my life. I was young, and seeing guys jump and flip into the air, and kicking their opponents in slow motion was the SHIT! Those cheesy kung fu films can either be viewed online (YouTube has a lot of those old-school kung fu movies, just in case you were wondering) or bought from your friendly neighbourhood bootleg DVD provider.
A popular type of kung fu film that was shown on Channel 4 was the “ninja movie”. This sub-genre of kung fu films were widely popular in the 1980s. This genre died when “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Power Rangers” and “3 Ninjas” (remember that shit?!) made the term “ninja” accessible for kids. This is clearly evident today with the popularity of the Japanese manga/anime “Naruto”. Hollywood tried to resurrect the ninja sub-genre with 2009’s “Ninja Assassin” with mixed results.
Which brings me to “Ninja Terminator”, a classic (for all the wrong reasons) ninja film directed by Godfrey Ho. Mind you, he’s no Steven Spielberg when it comes to his movies, but he is, and should be known, for his “cut-and-paste” technique. In a nutshell, he spliced pieces of other martial arts films into ONE movie in a ridiculous attempt to make a longer, more cohesive narrative. The end results of his experiments yielded some of the most unintentionally hilarious films ever made – according to Wikipedia….and YouTube. The names of these films (“Ninja Thunderbolt”, “Rage of a Ninja”, “The Ninja Squad” etc. etc.) aided in their hilarity. You can find the trailers for these films on YouTube – and trust me, they’re fucking ridiculous!
I stumbled upon “Ninja Terminator” a couple years back, and watched it out of curiosity. By the end, I thought it was the funniest (in a bad way) and most absurd martial arts films I’ve ever seen. I re-discovered it on YouTube last night and thought to myself “Maybe I should watch “Ninja Terminator” again with an open mind and then write a review on it”. Obviously, I was idle. But here we are, with my review of “Ninja Terminator”.
Warning: this longer-than-usual review contains spoilers, and pictures. ‘Cause what’s the use of reading lots of words if there aren’t any pictures, right?
The film begins with a blatant rip-off of the Columbia Pictures logo (you know, the one with the Statue of Liberty) as shown above. The music played starts with a musical refrain similar to a section of the “Star Wars” theme song composed by John Williams. This is the first example of Godfrey using unauthorized music and images for his films. It doesn’t stop there. You have been warned.
And then the cheesy 80s theme song for “Ninja Terminator” begins. This music is so cheesy and so 80s that it makes me want to open out a large cardboard box and attempt to do some breakdancing. And then, we see the title of the film. Apparently, the name of the show is really “A Ninja Terminator” since there’s a big “A” sticking out from the left side of the frame.
And then, the story begins. We open to a Japanese temple, where a group of Caucasian ninjas (I SHIT YOU NOT) are partaking in a bizarre ceremony. This ceremony is part of the 20th anniversary of the ninja empire (You can take a minute to let that sink in….and laugh your ass off! I’ll wait). The Caucasian ninjas proceed to open a box, after which they take out three pieces (left and right arms, and head) of a golden statue of a warrior. It is revealed that this statue is the GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR. I have to put it in capital letters since they STRESS on it so goddamn much! Suddenly, the “SUPREME NINJA” shows up, dressed in red with a ridiculous black cape. He does the cliched bad guy laugh, but adds a distinct “A” to it – so it sounds like “A-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”. He does some quick, Naruto-like hand gestures in front of the GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR. This makes his ARMS, (not his body, ladies and gentlemen…..his fucking ARMS!) invulnerable to sword attacks. The scene ends when he does another “A-HAHAHAHAHAHA” laugh.
The next day, 3 ninjas (remember that shit?!) in black steal the statue. One of the ninjas is Harry, played by the superb actor (I’m being ironic, guys) Richard Harrison. It can be assumed that Richard was stoned while acting in this film. I mean, look at his eyes!
Anyhoo, a group of RED ninjas give chase. Of course, they are killed by the black ninjas. Cut to Hong Kong, 2 years later. A red ninja catches up with one of the black ninjas and kills him. First and foremost, why in God’s name did it take the bad guys TWO YEARS to find the guys who stole their precious statue? This is but one of many unanswered questions in “Ninja Terminator”. Later, a Chinese man in a blonde wig (check the pic below) named Tiger is ordered by his Caucasian boss to find the GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR.
The Caucasian boss believes that the sister (named Machiko) and brother of the dead ninja knows where the statue is, and so Tiger sends his goons to kill them. What they do however is kick the shit out of the brother, killing him in the process. It isn’t shown what happened to Machiko, as the next scene shows Harry in his apartment. Dressed in a green camouflage ninja outfit (Naruto, eat your heart out!), Harry is seen slicing a watermelon into neatly-cut pieces. In one scene, he even helps his wife when the crabs that she is about to cook fall onto the ground. Sitting on the couch while his wife screams for help, Harry takes a kunai and throws it onto the back of one of the crabs. WOW! Talk about being a considerate husband!
In the next scene, Harry calls a Chinese guy named Jaguar (or how they pronounce it in the film: JAG-U-AR) Wong from his (infamous) Garfield telephone. Jaguar is a friend of Harry, and is asked to find Machiko before the bad guys do.
Jaguar is presented in the film as a BAD-ASS. He actually delivers the kung fu in the film, as he beats goon after goon (who always appear in groups of three or four for some reason) sent by Tiger. Actually, everywhere Jaguar goes, someone is trying to kill him or kick his ass! In one memorable scene, he asks three guys (who are shown throwing and catching a baseball) for directions to the restaurant in which Machiko works at. All the guys had to do was simply tell Jaguar where the restaurant is. Instead, they pick a fight with him. After he kicks the shit out of the 3 guys, he asks again for directions. One guy lying on his stomach replies in pain: “It’s over there…..”. The restaurant was just across the street. You gotta be fucking kidding me!
Anyhoo, Jaguar finally meets Machiko and offers to help her. He also follows another woman in the slowest high-speed car chase in an action movie I’ve ever seen! The woman is named Lily, who is Jaguar’s ex-girlfriend. They talk some shit about the past and then suddenly, Jaguar, being the bad-ass that he is, kisses Lily. Of course, you know what that means! OH YEAH! A TV-PG sex scene! After the sex, Lily reveals that her new boyfriend is a goon named Victor, who just so happens to be working for Tiger. PLOT TWIST!
Meanwhile, Harry has problems of his own. The ninja empire is pissed about the GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR fiasco and wants his head (cue the “Imperial March” song from ‘The Empire Strikes Back”). In one scene, the empire sends a toy robot (you know those cheap, battery-operated toy robots that were made in China? Yeah, something like that!) to send a recorded message. Harry has 3 days to return the statue or else. I’m assuming that this toy robot is perhaps the “NINJA TERMINATOR” in the film’s title. I could be wrong, since there’s no fucking point to the title anyway!
Now back to Jaguar’s movie….. I mean, story. Machiko is in the restaurant celebrating her birthday. Suddenly, there’s a power outage. The lights come back on, and Machiko disappears…. UNDERTAKER STYLE! She was actually kidnapped by Tiger’s goons, where they proceed to torture her for info about the missing statue. Jaguar winds up in a trap set up by Lily (that BITCH!) and he is caught by Tiger’s goons also. Lily is shown in the next scene being proposed by Victor, who promises that he will quit the goon lifestyle and start a family. We all know that’s an excuse for Victor to get some nookie, which he does get…. in another TV-PG sex scene, complete with unauthorized Pink Floyd music (don’t ask).
Through sheer luck, Jaguar manages to escape his captors, and returns to ass-kicking mode. The goons then tape Machiko’s torture and send the cassette to Harry via the toy robot. Harry and his wife sit down on the couch and watch the poorly-shot video. Harry calls Jaguar and tells him to KINDAP LILY in retaliation to Machiko’s torture. Harry’s wife is probably thinking: “This is what I get for leaving my ex for a fucking ninja!”.
Jaguar does as ordered. He finds Lily and tells her that he has to kidnap her in order to save Machiko. Lily willingly agrees to help Jaguar, and fuck up Victor in the process (that BITCH!). Jaguar calls Victor and tells him that he kidnapped Lily. Machiko is revealed to be tied up in Tiger’s place, with a timebomb strapped to her. Victor, who has the remote, meets Jaguar and gets his ass kicked. Jaguar takes the remote, drives back to Tiger’s place and saves Machiko. And this would be the last time we see Machiko for the rest of the film. What happened to her at that point? I don’t know, and I don’t fucking care!
Jaguar goes back and confronts Tiger, at last!! A lengthy fight scene occurs between the two, and Jaguar emerges as the winner. WOO-HOO! We now return to Harry, who confronts a red ninja who has the headpiece of the GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR. A fight scene occurs between the two, and Harry emerges as the winner. WOO-HOO! The red ninja, who is amazingly still alive, admits defeat and claims that he can never return to the ninja empire. Harry takes all pieces of the GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR and slowly walks away. Suddenly, the red ninja does a Naruto-style hand gesture and BLOWS UP! Seriously! He…fucking…..BLOWS…..UP! Look at the pic, goddammit!
Harry unwisely breaks the rule of “walking away from an explosion”. You’re not supposed to look back when the explosion takes place. But this is what Harry does, and then, after 82 minutes of waiting, we finally see the credit “THE END”.
LAST WORDS: There are movies that are so bad, they’re good and then there are movies that are so bad, they’re bad. And then there’s “Ninja Terminator”. This shit defies gravity, logic and common sense. It’s also really fucking hilarious, depending on your sense of humour. Apart from the okayish fight scenes, everything else in this film falls flat. The story, or should I say stories of Harry and Jaguar, are poorly written and ACTED. The dialogue is laughable and the dubbing is generic and pathetic. Questions are still left unanswered in the film: for example, what happened to the Supreme “A-HAHAHAHAHAHA” Ninja? Whatever happened to Machiko? And where can I get one of those Garfield telephones? I may never know. “Ninja Terminator” has to be seen to be believed. Fortunately, this masterpiece is still on YouTube, so if you’re still curious, I suggest you watch this shit! However, I suggest that you have a bottle of alcohol nearby while watching this film. You’ll either get drunk enough to watch the entire film, or knock yourself out with the bottle instead of watching the rest of it. I could have talked about other films that’ll be talked about for the next few weeks like “The Descendants”, “The Artist” or “Hugo”. But I just HAD to talk about this shit. Besides, how are we to know what makes a good film if we don’t know what makes a bad film? Think about it.
By the way, here’s the trailer for “Ninja Terminator”. If this doesn’t motivate you to watch this timeless classic, I don’t know what will 😀