A 21st Century American Ninja

Scott Adkins in Ninja (2009)

Having arrived at the Dojo an orphan, Casey (Scott Adkins), an American, has trained hard to become an expert in Ninjitsu. His skills and sensibilities lead to him being favoured by the Sensei (Togo Igawa) much to rival student Masazuka's (Tsuyoshi Ihara) jealousy as their Sensei plans to pass on a chest containing a Ninja's armour and weapons to the one he chooses to become the next Sensei. When Masazuka attacks Casey it leads to his expulsion from the Dojo which in turn leads to him becoming a deadly assassin who still desires the chest. It is why Casey and the Sensei's daughter, Namiko (Mika Hijii), head to America taking the chest with them to keep it safe from Masazuka. But with Masazuka leaving a trail of murder and crime in his wake Casey finds himself the focus of the Police's investigations.

I have a little secret, I keep them hidden under my bed... no I am not on about a stash of men's magazines but a stash of 80s martial arts videos such as "No Retreat, No Surrender" and "Kickboxer". Yes back in the 80s I was one of many young movie lovers who wished to have the kick ass abilities of a Ninja and whilst now I realise those movies were a lot of nonsense and often bad they still hold some fond, rose tinted memories for me. It is possibly the reason why I enjoyed "Ninja" which is essentially a 21st century update on those movies which I grew up watching.

Tsuyoshi Ihara in Ninja (2009)

As such "Ninja" isn't in the least bit complex with are outsider, Casey, ending up the chosen one and having to protect some extremely powerful Ninja weapons from his jealous rival who turns to the dark side and some other, Russian, bad guys. But the storyline is, as it always was, just a vehicle for the action and where as 80s martial arts action was all about speed and power in "Ninja" it seems to be more about the choreography and the beauty of well executed moves. I suppose for those who watch "Ninja" without that knowledge of 80s martial arts movies the use of slow motion and choreographed fight scenes will seem normal but compared to those 80s movies this feels almost fancy.

That sense of fancy also comes from the casting of Scott Adkins as whilst having the classic muscular and toned physique, so he looks good when fighting with his shirt off, he also has grace. All of his movements almost have that element of dance about them as they are beautifully executed. Of course the editing plays a part in this but it gives "Ninja" a look and a style which stands it apart from those 80s martial arts movies and why it is a 21st century update rather than feeling like a remake stuck in the past.

What this all boils down to is that "Ninja" is not a great movie, in fact for some it might be an incredibly cheesy movie. But having grown up wanting to be a martial arts star and having watched many of those 80s martial arts movies I can appreciate this 21st century update for what it is and for me that was entertaining.

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