Ninja In The Killing Field (1986)

Directed by: York Lam
Written by: Dwight Bolinger
Producer: Tomas Tang
Starring: Stuart Smith, Louis Roth, Jane Kingsly, Henry Steele, Patricia Greenfield & Sorapong Chatri

Crafting their own production line of ninja action pictures utlilizing source movie footage from movies across Asia and newly shot action footage with Westerners in order to satisfy the 80s market place, Tomas Tang's Filmark patterned their take on it on Joseph Lai's IFD yet their style came off as somewhat their own. Somewhat crappier, way wilder when incorporating more genres like horror in the vein of Mr. Vampire. For Ninja In The Killing Field, matters are more straightforward as Tang pits Stuart Smith (as Stuart Steen in this one) vs Louis Roth vs the original Thai source movie 123 Commando (original poster here, courtesy of Jub Classic Movies) in very straightforward ways plus one drug-fueled moment that makes matters quite legendary.

As the original movies has ninjas already, Filmark aren't tweaking much plot-wise. In essence the Thai police wants to take down a drug smuggling ring headed by Marshall Sears (Louis Roth in Filmark's addition). Getting help from former ninja Richard Jones (Chatri), the ninja drug smugglers are also out to eliminate him after leaving the clan...

It could be argued Ninja In The Killing Field is business as usual and you wouldn't be wrong as Filmark, despite the over the top acting, doesn't seem to go for fun but rather functional string to tie themselves to the 123 Commando plot. It's not convincing but does the job very adequately, especially towards the end of the movie where the intercutting between the two sources is quite good.

As for 123 Commando, clearly this was a production aided by army, navy and airforce support as a lot of production value is gained from shooting with vehicles, planes and boats. It's a standard but sufficiently mounted action piece that makes the most noise through some fight action and decent tension. Otherwise, despite mentioned production values, the action and violence becomes quite indistinct but filmmakers deserve kudos for attempting an edgier, darker frame.

With Stuart Smith (as an anti drugs agency agent AND ninja) popping up quite late and in very infrequent action footage, it's a shame we don't get much of his wonderfully over the top acting (and he is dubbed by someone else as opposed to at IFD where we got to hear his voice) but as is often the case, the mix of new and older source makes for an amusing intrusion. Especially towards the end where Smith is merged well with the war mayhem and the final ninja battle with Louis Roth has a moment involving frogs that must've been Tomas Tang deliberately amusing himself as it's a clownish moment in a rather serious movie. Without it, Ninja In The Killing Field is an easy watch without much distinction. As it stands now, you won't believe the final minute they crafted before they shot this onto the market place.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson


(1) Thanks to Jesus Pérez Molina for identifying the movie and check out his blog posts on Ninja In The Killing Field here.