Its Ninja Hunters’ generosity that makes it a great film. The movie overflows with everything you could want out of a classic kung fu flick. My compliments to Wu Huo Jen the director. This movie is also known as Wu Tang vs. Ninja, but as I said Wu Huo Jen is a generous man so even though they aren’t in the title there are also Shaolin Monks and what appear to be Zen Buddhists priests too.
The plot is not important, its the pace that makes the film. You never have to wait very long before you get a dose of what you came for. The wire work and acrobatics are exceptional. The actors spend as much time upside down as they do right side up. The fight choreography is also very well done and they throw in a veritable cornucopia of weapons, from swords, to three linked staves, to throwing stars. Amidst all the mayhem the translators make some very curious choices like when a ninja, clad all in metallic gold fabric, yells, “The old smuck is going to ga ga over her.” The Jewish influence on ninja culture was unknown to me before I saw this film but you learn something everyday.
There are several kinds of ninjas in the film. There’s the gold metallic one, a white one, lots of standard issue black ones but there is one that stands out from the others because of his tidy little Hitler mustache. Wait a minute, is there some kind of Jewish subtext at work here? And the soundtrack of the film was stolen from Das Boot (no joke). Perhaps Ninja Hunters is a thinly veiled metaphor for The Jewish Diaspora? I sense a dissertation here. “The Post-Colonial Hermeneutics of Semitic Semiotics in Taiwanese Martial Art Films.”
Taiwanese martial arts films tend to be a bit wild and strange compared to their Hong Kong counterparts. Ninja Hunter includes a smoldering, smokey zombie who burns you when you punch him. The film provides no context or reason for his presence, but that shouldn’t impede your ability to be entertained by him. There are a lot of things that explode that would not normally explode. Two black ninjas explode but they were carrying lit dynamite. They were in the middle of a fight conducted on repelling ropes hanging off a cliff.
Ninja Hunters also employs the spurting fountain of blood technique as seen in Lone Wolf and Cub. This not commonly used in Taiwanese or Hong Kong martial arts movies, but there was plenty of crimson, high pressure streams, that arced through the air and copious blood capsules spurting through gritted red teeth.
There is sex too, sort of. The villain, Abbot White, uses weird hand gestures to suck the life force out of half naked women. The women get aroused and then they slowly turn pallid and droop over like dead flowers. He absorbs their energy and uses it to make his skin impenetrable.
I wonder what Freud would say about a man who sucks the life out of women to make himself impenetrable. Maybe something about sublimated sexual desires for the mother blocking his ability to be intimate. There’s probably something about poop in there too. Along with the sex we are also given a small amount of slapstick comedy. Thankfully the film gets the comedy out of the way at beginning and then moves on. Kung fu movie comedy, whether from Hong Kong or Taiwan is often hard to bear. Fortunately this film was free of giant buck teeth, stammering, and crossed eyes.
There are two obligatory training montages including the requisite smashing of ceramic pots in slow motion. There is also the all important message that Chinese martial arts are superior to Japanese martial arts. Rounding out the requisites the story hinges on revenge and ends immediately after the villain is killed. The camera backs away while we watch our heroes walk off into the distance leaving the corpse of The White Abbot in the dirt.
As a whole Ninja Hunter succeeds because of its proportions. Like a well balanced recipe the film combines, kung fu, black magic, sex, ninjas, semitic subtexts, comedy, and unusual hair styles to create something very tasty. Most Taiwanese martial arts film tend to go off the deep end with crazy magic and strange demons. That of course is an aesthetic all its own, a different cake if you will, but the balance in Ninja Hunter produces its own rich and velvety confection worthy of the most discerning kung fu pallet.
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