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Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear (2013), redeeming the flawed original with delicious ninja-flavored revenge!

January 5, 2014

MY CALLNinja (2009) was VERY entertaining but VERY flawed. This sequel strongly sets right and continues the franchise with crisper and more brutal fights, a better story and none of the nonsense–clearly opening the door to a most welcome third installment.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Ninja II:  To scratch your ninja itch try Ninja Assassin (2009), Ninja (2009) and The Hunted (1995).  And if your want more Adkins action try El Gringo (2012), Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012), The Expendables 2 (2012) and Undisputed II (2006) and III (2010).

Director Isaac Florentine (Undisputed II & III, Ninja) understandably likes working with (Scott Adkins; El Gringo, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, The Expendables 2, Assassination Games).  I get it.  Adkins is amazing and if I were directing martial arts movies he’d be my top pick, too…EVERY TIME!

But Adkins’ performances are easily limited by Florentine’s vision that dayUndisputed II (2006) featured some of the best fight choreography you can find and it was filmed with appropriate angles and for long enough time between cuts for viewers to really appreciate the techniques being executed and their difficulty.  It also had a simple, enjoyable (even if recycled) story.  Whereas Undisputed III (2010) suffered a drop in that quality in terms of both story and spin kicks for reasons I can’t explain, and Ninja (2009)–however cool the movie was without the fights–failed to impress me with the martial arts…and I’m pretty sure that was the one thing (if only one thing) that should have wowed me.

In this sequel Casey Bowman leaves runs to the store when his fiancée has midnight cravings for chocolate and seaweed–we can assume she has the Japanese preggers munchies.  This all sounds very sweet, but you can’t have a good ninja movie without a solid motive for revenge, can you?  So when he returns home to find her dead, no one is surprised.

The opening combat sequence struck me as technically sound with crisp, impressive combinations.  However, Adkins’ fight scenes seem largely limited by the skill of his stunt man opponents who (in a few scenes) can’t nearly keep up, appearing to fight rigidly (i.e., being less comfortable with the choreography) compared to Adkins’ deftly smooth counterstrikes so trained fighters and fight stunt snobs will pick at the weaker fight’s flaws like piranhas  on a floating carcass.  This minor flaw was most apparent in a scene reminiscent of Jet Li’s opening scene in Fist of Legend (1994), when Scott takes on a dojo of opponents.  But fear not.  This flaw was a one-fight fluke and the other fights remain enjoyably awesome.  Adkins fans will rejoice when seeing him deliver some of his trademark 540 check kicks, beautiful transitions when performing jump spin kick and sweep combinations, and stunning corkscrew flairs that would make Ray Parks’ own Darth Maul green with envy.  You’ll even notice moves and stunts that will smack of Jackie Chan, but with none of Chan’s humor and all Adkins’ elegant brutality.  And watch out for the “hotel room” fight scene.  I haven’t seen such a brilliantly unique gun-disarm/counterstrike since Equilibrium (2002) and The Raid: Redemption (2011).

The fights all find fury and brutality.  Spin kicks often serve as little more than “filler” in martial arts movies.  But when Scott Adkins throws spin kicks his body weight whips like a Devil-possessed trebuchet to our rejoice.

Casey is unfocused and angry in this sequel, clearly preoccupied with revenge.  When he travels to Thailand to escape his grief, he is followed by the vengeance of an old enemy of his dojo; the same enemy that killed his fiancée.  Casey travels to Myanmar to find Goro (Shun Sugata; Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, Ichi the Killer, Bunraku, The Last Samurai), a Burmese drug lord and the man who wronged him.

Tim Man (Kill’em All, Raging Phoenix) plays Goro’s right hand man and give us a fantastic, long, vicious fight scene with Adkins.  The much shorter (yet sufficient) fight between Adkins’ Casey and the aging but deadly Goro was also satisfying with a dash of unique flavor.

Adkins gets some serious air time and spin time.

The movie most clearly ends with a bitter end– opening the door to a third installment in which Casey Bowman may finally find peace–and some fantastic swordplay.  You don’t want to miss this!

Below is an unimpressive movie poster for Ninja II. Don’t be fooled by the 90s-esque B-action movie style poster. This movie is AWESOME!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Victor De Leon permalink
    January 6, 2014 6:38 pm

    I gotta see this! I just watched Adkins in “Legendary” and I (in the minority, probably) liked it, Good review!

    • johnleavengood permalink
      January 6, 2014 6:42 pm

      Oh, the new Hercules movie? How was he in that?

      • Victor De Leon permalink
        January 6, 2014 6:56 pm

        No, not that one. It was a monster movie he did with Dolph Lundgren. He was pretty cool in it. He plays a Crypto -Zoologist.

        My review is still in my recent post sidebar on my front page if you want to check it out.

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