Tough Ninja: The Shadow Warrior (1986)

Directed by: Larry Hutton
Written by: Joseph Kong
Producer: Tomas Tang
Starring: Tony Gable, Judy Caine, Rod Penn, Phillip Ko & Michael Chan

It was actually fairly rare for a Hong Kong source movie to be the basis of an IFD or Filmark cut and paste ninja action product. Mostly Taiwan and Thailand got the nod. Whether the case was the material not presenting itself or Hong Kong companies demanding more, Patrick Kong's Unreal Dream (1982) IS the source movie used for Filmark's Tough Ninja: The Shadow Warrior and even hardcore viewers of the merger on display will find the 90 minutes of Hong Kong- and ninja action puzzling. And delightful because of it.

Nearly impossible to plot summarize as is often the case with IFD and Filmark's re-tooling of movies, it's especially hard for Tough Ninja: The Shadow Warrior and at best basic fragments of plotting shine through. Among other things a group of former ninja trainees flee the ruthless boot camp and are saved by local mobster Yamada (Phillip Ko Fei) who takes a liking to the girl (Lily Chan's character who's possibly Judy Caine in Filmark's mostly made up credits). Another section of the group committ robberies (cue Addy Sung's role from the original) and at times a Bruce Lee clone turns up...

It may very well feature an additional source movie edited into this mix that initially anyway tries to make the illussion solid concerning that it's all totally one movie. The group of what presumeably were immigrants in the original movie are rounded up, training footage with ninjas are edited into all this and it's a tighter illussion because Filmark use both Chinese and caucausian talent. They even went as far as shooting new scenes with Phillip Ko and Addy Sung which is clearly a chance they rightly jumped at when they knew they had them available in the old movie and new action shoot. But no one is fooling any viewer really and that these are 2 or 3 separate shoots becomes more evident the more abtract the plotting becomes. The delight comes through the fact that Filmark shoe horned in a ninja plot over the original plot and its dialogue.

It's the fact behind the creation behind Tough Ninja: The Shadow Warriors, how it was assembled, the amusement of sometimes even full on incoherency and a fair amount of colourful inclusions by all filmmakers that make this a high recommendation for the initiated. Especially said, very random scenes of a Bruce Lee clone fighting off thugs rarely if ever seen again, awkward sex scenes from Unreal Dream, a pudgy Ken Boyle vs a white ninja hero introduced in one scene very late to shoe horn in a ninja vs ninja final duel (a very poor one partly as even the teleporting, jump cut effects are done sloppily) but more importantly, the action of Unreal Dream intrigues. Even the Bruce Lee clone scenes are choreographed very well but it's the primal violence of Patrick Kong's film that stands out and you wonder what it was actually like before it was molded into something on the other end of the scale. We're grateful we have the re-interpretation of it for sure though.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson