Central Park Media // 1990 // 70 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 12th, 2004
"Ninja jump off the roof!"
From anime director Go Nagai comes a wacky ninja tale, crammed with some low-budget but effectively cheesy special effects, a plethora of bizarro characters, a nonsensical plot, and some surprisingly gruesome gore effects. The Ninja Dragon also has the benefit of being dubbed by some guys who go above and beyond the call of duty, inserting some choice barbs and dialogue that is actually pretty funny. Produced by Asian Pulp Cinema, the flick certainly delivers on the pulp, but delivers less of a "cinema" experience and more of a "we-were-bored-one-weekend-so-we-shot-this-insane-kung-fu-movie" feel.
Okay, not much to report here. Basically, Shinobu is the daughter of a powerful Yakuza leader, and carries the bloodline of an ancient ninja clan. One of the fringe benefits of being a "chosen one" is having three powerful "Ninja Defenders" running around protecting her.
However, a rival clan leader is looking to marry Shinobu, and, like all evil, power-hungry villains, wants to assume levels of awesome might.
The movie is a shade over an hour long, and basically consists of three parts: part one is Shinobu coming to grips with her new "chosenosity," while also suffering the antics of a mega-nerd/chauffeur, Yu; part two focuses on the villain's ascent to power by wiping out competing clans; and part three is a long siege on the fortress by the Ninja Defenders.
The movie started out promising, slowed down significantly with the tedious interchange between Yu and Shinobu, then picked up with the Ninja Defenders and their crusade to rescue the damsel in distress.
The opening scene finds a hapless Yakuza maestro fall victim to one of the villain's main henchman, a seven-foot Terminator-like behemoth who can withstand shuriken to the face, through a surprisingly bloody arm-tearing-off scene.
This splatter momentum slows down until the Yakuza clan massacre later in the flick, when one poor guy gets his face peeled off. Let me tell you, that was pretty crazy.
Once the Ninja Defenders spring into action, all hell breaks loose -- kind of. The assault on the criminal headquarters is gratuitous, but not very well choreographed. Yeah, there's kung fu fighting, but the fight sequences look to have been improvised on the spot.
Throughout, the dubbing is pretty funny, especially as the point Ninja Defender, Ryu, preambles every action he does with "Ninja" (e.g., "Ninja pause, ninja go!" or "Ninja flip!" or "Ninja run!") A couple of these had me laughing out loud.
Splatter effects flow more liberally during these sequences, as thugs have their faces sliced in quarters, bear the business end of a katana through the gut, and gurgle blood from slit throats.
Plus, you get random wrestling matches! The disc jacket proudly proclaims the presence of "wrestling sensation" Cutie Suzuki, who gets to flaunt her skills, thanks to the presence of a random gymnasium (thankfully, her foe came to the siege clad in wrestling tights.) However, this match goes on far too long. How many times do we need to see that Irish Whip?!
Central Park Media presents the film in a full-screen transfer, grainy still considering its source -- a 14 year-old Japanese print. The sound mix is Dolby 2.0 stereo, which doesn't have too much to do, save ramming home some of the cheeseball Yamaha home-scored loop soundtrack. Extras are pretty lightweight, featuring character profiles, a director biography, some trailers, and then, weirdly, some DVD-Rom features. These are also fairly unimpressive -- the script, credits, and a photo gallery -- which begs the question: why not just include them straight up on the disc?
Taken as a whole, I would recommend a viewing of The Ninja Dragon, provided a) you have a low, low attention span, b) get a kick out of watching ninjas mutilate each other, and most importantly c) have stupid friends who would watch stupid junk like this and enjoy it. Taking all that into consideration, I'd predict The Ninja Dragon and some saturated-fat-rich foodstuffs would offer a worthwhile alternative to, say, vandalism.
The accused is found guilty of tastelessness and crudity, and chastised for wasting the court's time (but, secretly, we'll be hanging out in judge's chambers to watch it, with some Jolt cola and a bag of Fritos and, you know, if you want, feel free to drop by, just don't tell anyone, okay? Oh, and bring some dip.)
Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Central Park Media
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Sneak Peeks
* Character Profiles
* Director Biography
* DVD-ROM features