December 17, 2013

Blu-ray Review: Ninja II - Shadow of a Tear

A few years ago I reviewed a copy of Undisputed III. Now, I had never seen the first two, although I did know that the first one starred Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames. The sequel brought in a new director (Isaac Florentine) and stars (Michael Jai White and Scott Adkins). The third one (the only one I have seen) retained the second's director and one of its stars (Adkins). What I saw in that movie blew me away, Scott Adkins is a beast and Florentine knows how to make low budget action! Knowing this, I eagerly checked out Ninja (2010), another teaming of the two. While it did not excite me as much, it cemented their place as people to watch in my mind. Now we have Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear.

Let me first say that if you are a fan of martial arts action movies, consider this a must see. Now, let me tell you that Florentine and Adkins are two of action cinema's best kept secrets. Unless you look for these types of movies there is a chance, a good chance, that you will overlook their movies and never see these guys at work. They toil in direct to video action films (although Adkins does appear in The Expendables 2), plying their wares to an audience that is way too small for their skills. Don't get me wrong, these movies are definitely B-grade and subject to budgetary limitations, but when you see what they can do you will likely wonder what they could do with better material and a bigger budget.

Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear is an ambitious actioner that tracels to many locations and making the best use of its cast as it can. This is not high art and should not be viewed as such. It is a modestly budgeted action movie made to hopefully make a few bucks and allow those involved to show what they can do. Scott Adkins is an absolute beast in this film. He may not be that great of an actor (perhaps with the right material he would better), but he has screen charisma, athleticism, and fighting skills that are mind boggling. Sure, these are rigged movie fights, but the guy is a monster and this movie does a great job of letting him show his stuff.

Adkins returns as Casey, an American trained as a ninja in Japan. He is back at the dojo he helped protect in the first film, only now he is married to Namiko (Mika Hiji). However, his seemingly idylic life is about to be shattered. He has a chance encounter with a couple of street thugs, and while their skills seem much higher than that of simple robbers, he does not pay them enough mind to think something may be up. This proves to be a big mistake, a mistake that leaves Namiko dead and his life destroyed.

After tracking down and exacting some vengeance on the thugs from earlier, Casey decides he needs to step away and re-find himself. So, he goes to a dojo run by an old friend Nakabara (Kane Kosugi, son of legendary Sho). It is here that he learns of a legend, a tale dating back to WWII, where a boy witnessed the murder of his brother and has sworn revenge on the families of the men involved. Of course, the families are those of Nakabara and Namiko, meaning Casey is a target by way of marriage.

Rather than wait for the bad guys to find him again, he takes a proactive approach and takes the fight to them. So, if you happen to know a ninja, do not, I repeat, do not make him/her angry. Rest assured, they will make sure you regret it.

That is really all there is to it. If you boil out the various country locations and characters, you are left with a fairly standard revenge plot. This is a movie to watch not for the plot but for the execution of the action. This is easily one of the best direct to video action movies I have seen in recent memory. Isaac Florentine knows how to capture combat in a cohesive, easy to understand fashion, that conveys the kinetic motion while also letting you see it. On top of that, Adkins is still a beast and makes this a very entertaining movie.

Audio/Video. The movie is presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 and looks pretty sharp. It does not have the sheen of a Hollywood production, but there is a real good level of detail throughout and sharp color representation. This really is a fantastic looking disk, even when you have dark clothes in a nighttime sequence, things still seem to pop.

Audio is presented in a Dolby TruHD 5.1 track is more than capable of holding its own with the excellent image. There is good use of surrounds, particularly in the market sequence. Dialogue is nicely centered and the music is nicely represented. There is very little to complain about with the presentation.


  • Featurette. This features clips from the film and interview pieces as they discuss the story, the performances and direction.
  • Cast and Crew Interviews. This is more discussion about the use of martial arts and the performances as well as the difficulties of the production
  • Behind the Scenes. A few minutes of raw footage from the set

Bottomline. Ninja II is an absolute blast to watch. This is a great action film that knows why we would want to watch it. It wastes no time on the plot, sure it is there and does some interesting things, but it makes sure we get to the fights and plenty of them. This is a must for action fans.

Highly Recommended.

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Dell said...

Cool review. I haven't seen either of the ninja flicks. If you like Adkins, he was fun to watch in Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning.

draven99 said...

Thanks. I will have to check that one out!

Unknown said...

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