Monday, 6 February 2012
NINJA BATTLE (2011)
Written & Directed by: Seiji Chiba
Starring: Aiko Ito, Shuji Kashiwabara, Daisuke Nagakura
Japanese director Seiji Chiba returns with yet another low budget ninja offering following on from the likes of Rogue Ninja, Ninja Girl and, yes, Alien vs. Ninja. Though Ninja Battle may have been before these titles as the trailer suggests this was actually released in Japan way back in 2008. Whatever the case, Ninja Battle sticks much to the same formula as Chiba’s other ninja flicks (save for Alien vs. Ninja as there are definitely no aliens in this one!) with two rival clans battling it out in the same forest and cave setting seen in all the other above mentioned ninja films. Yep, Chiba sure seems to be getting value for money out of that cave location and all the ninja costumes (which all have a similar style) and he seems to be content to make a variation of the same sort of ninja movie using the same settings and costumes.
Fair enough really as with Ninja Battle, and the other films, clocking in at just over an hour, they are swift and most feature enough stylised action to make the sixty minutes entertaining fun. The only downside to Ninja Battle (other than perhaps the very low budget and the recycled sets) is that, even at only an hour long, there is a lot of exposition to get through. This is symptomatic of Chiba’s other films as well as the characters talk and talk about how they have ended up in the situation they are in and what they are gonna do about it. This means that despite only being an hour in duration, Ninja Battle does feel like it drags a little. With most of the film set in the previously mentioned cave, the characters play off one another, bluffing and lying to one another as they all strive to find some sort of secret document, that one of them may have in their possession, which one clan of ninjas want to get hold of as it well help them in their fight against another clan of ninjas. Or something.
So yeah, lots of talking about this clan and that clan and who is a spy and who isn’t and who is a ninja and who isn’t, which while engaging and intriguing at first does go on a bit. Thankfully Chiba does break up proceedings with frequent bouts of impressive swordplay and ninja action. There are a couple of nice one-on-one fights and a neat set-piece when one dude takes on a whole horde of black clad ninjas which features some tight and well executed choreography. There just should have been a bit more of it as with a title like Ninja Battle, all we really want to see it lots of ninjas fighting to death in high octane action scenes.
Still, this is a fairly enjoyable ninja flick that while not as good Rogue Ninja or as fun as Alien vs. Ninja is an ok hour of entertainment that could serve as a warm up before settling in to watch a longer and more action packed flick.