A Life Of Ninja (HK 1983)

Rating: **
Review Date: 9/20/15
Cast: Chen Kwan Tai, Elsa Yeung (Yang Hui San), Yasuaki Kurata

Ninja movies were very popular in the 1980's, and this film brings together ninja action, wrestling, and kung fu in a contemporary setting. A cruel Chinese businessman is targeted by a clan of ninja led by Yasuaki Kurata. Chen Kwan Tai is a kenpo master who also happens to know ninjitsu, and he's hired as a bodyguard by the businessman. It turns out that he and Kurata have some unfinished business from fifteen years ago, and his new job gives him an opportunity to seek revenge. Chen also falls in love with his new employer's cute and bitchy sister-in-law (Elsa Yeung), who also happens to be pretty good with a sword. When Chen and Kurata finally meet, they duke it out in traditional kung fu style with blades, fists, and feet. Unfortunately, about half of this final confrontation is shot in complete darkness, so you can't see what's going on. The film ends on a hilariously abrupt freeze frame of the real mastermind saying "it's fate" after being shot by the police.

The film opens with a five minute long training montage that showcases various ninja abilities, while a voiceover recounts the secret history of ninjitsu (or "Nin Za" in the subtitles). The female ninja undergo additional training, which includes mud wrestling, hypnotism, and being dunked in ice water. This is one of several ninja films I've seen that features female mud wrestling, which I've never quite understood. And of course, the female ninja's most deadly weapon is the art of seduction, whether it's baring her breasts to distract an enemy, riding a half-naked victim like a horse, or poisoning a lover while having sex. It's all rather silly, but the action scenes are fun to watch and seeing Chen Kwan Tai and Yasuaki Kurata beat each other up is quite enjoyable. Chen performs some great sword and tonfa work, and also fights a large wrestler, which is another hard hitting highlight of the film. Elsa Yeung is quite attractive, fights well, and wears a number of cute outfits, and several of the female ninja are also fairly attractive. The film is an interesting blend of old school martial arts sensibilities and modern action, but the cops vs. ninja formula doesn't quite work. In the animal brutality department, there's an unpleasant scene of a snake getting beheaded, which I could have done without.