Ninja In Action (1988)

Directed by: Tommy Cheng
Written by: Brent Hays
Producer: Tomas Tang
Starring: Stuart Smith, Louis Roth, Pedro Ernyes, Lu I-Chan & Luk Yee-Fung

With a stack of Taiwanese revenge- and action films acquired, Tomas Tang, just like IFD's Joseph Lai, saw the potential of merging these particular genre flicks with ninja action with a Western face in order to sell globally so Ninja In Action, using Chester Wong's 1982 movie The Outlaw as its source, was shot, conceived and probably very quickly shot onto the market. Colourful art, promising ninjas, hopefully it was yet again a successful marketing scheme because Tang, just like Lai, knew how to have fun with the cut and paste technique. Ninja In Action has its main strength through a larger than usual amount of Filmark footage and new ideas. Which is needed because Wong's original footage only comes to life sporadically.

A pretty simple plot originally gets somewhat confusing as Filmark's writing team adds to it. The ninja Adam Cole flees the greedy ninja organization headed by Louis Roth's character but is put in jail during the engagement party with his girlfriend Rosie (Luk Yee-Fung). She promptly betrays Alan by bedding the big boss Mr. X but is the target of Adam as he flees the prison subsequently. After revenge and the jewels, Stuart Smith's character teams up with his girlfriend whose father was killed during the jewelry robbery to exact revenge and get the jewels back. All while the law represented by Sergeant Chong (Lu I-Chan) is on the hunt...

Filmark fell into the pattern when it came to producing ninja action but for Ninja In Action, there is more going on that requires effort. For one their own footage takes up maybe 40% of the running time as opposed to maybe the usual 10-15 and there's some additional ideas of lunacy that represents an extra thought or two on set. Editing together Louis Roth on the phone with The Outlaw and Smith looking in on scenes from it doesn't sound seamless but at least Smith's scenes has an aura of illusion of being part of the same movie. Getting a workout- and sex scene to establish HIS character, for once he is just a guy, not a ninja, with action skills so followers of Filmark knows this is originality and restraint. Largely fun in their basic staging, the action is swift and fast at points (especially the opening robbery) but there's few lightning quick exchanges through the stuntmen to admire here.

Chester Wong's The Outlaw is obviously not represented in full or via its original story content here but it follows in a tradition of some of his movies where there's gritty action and violence at points in between direction of the rather a stale kind. Lead Lu I-Chan is even kept restrained here sadly and it could've used more of her fury. Having said that, there are gritty action highlights such as a swordfight at a lumber yard, a loud house shootout and the finale features fun elements such as razor sharp boomerangs while Lu I-Chan comes off very well in a judo style end fight.

With a marvelous torture scene involving amateur acupuncture and an action finale dealing with removing ninjutsu from Filmark, Ninja In Action mostly thrives on their somewhat new ideas here despite making yet another ninja actioner. Them taking and daring to take center stage through their at best basic filmmaking team is always a delight and even more so when they thoroughly removed ninjutsu (just like an aspect of the very last scene here) from their product and channeled their inner childs making hopping vampire movies subsequently.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson