1995 - Unrated - 94 Mins.
|Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Quint Lancaster
|Producer: Haruo Sai Masaki, Sawanobori
|Written By: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
|Starring: Richard Barnes, Dean Elliot, Richard George, Jenny Haniver, Richard Hayworth
|Review by: James O'Ehley
More Mortal Kombat than Akira Kurosawa, “Ninja Scroll” is an ultra-violent anime (or Japanese animated movie) that ought to appeal to teenager boys of all ages.
It certainly appealed to the older teenager in me.
It is feudal Japan. Ninja warriors with superpowers seem to be all over the place! Enter one Jubei – a self-proclaimed ‘vagabond’ – a cool loner with an offbeat sense of humour. Think Han Solo in sandals and you’ll get the idea.
Soon he becomes involved in a plot by a rogue group of ninjas to overthrow the Japanese government. Why should Jubei care? Because he’s recruited by a wizened old ninja warrior who is a spy for the government.
How does he do this? By surreptitiously poisoning Jubei – if he doesn’t help him, there’ll be no antidote and Jubei will die. (No doubt the makers of “Ninja Scroll” saw this gimmick used on Kurt Russell in “Escape from New York” and liked it enough to use it themselves.)
It’s personal too though. The mastermind behind the whole plot is someone from Jubei’s past, someone whom he has killed but has somehow managed to return from the dead.
I told you they all had superpowers . . .
This is just the basic outline as far as I can make out though: the plot (like a lot of anime) is at once both simplistic and overly complicated and obscure. Not that it matters though, “Ninja Scroll” is all about violent action and it delivers this in buckets of blood.
And take my word on this: “Ninja Scroll” is quite violent. One can easily imagine it being the favourite movie of Alex the Droog or Patrick Bateman (the yuppie killer of “American Psycho”).
Within the first twenty minutes or so you would witnessed a graphic attempted rape, anal sex in silhouette and, excluding a lot of other blood spurting decapitations and hackings, a man’s arms being ripped from his sockets and the creature responsible for this hungrily drinking the blood profusely flowing from the severed appendages!
Westerners unfamiliar with anime are seldom prepared for what awaits them. In the West, animation serves as kiddies entertainment and little else, while in Japan animation is used to depict anything from serious dramas and action movies to erotica and slasher pics.
Recently a friend of mine made the mistake of putting on the brilliant anime “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988) for his four-year-old daughter despite my warnings. He quickly realised his mistake and dug up a copy the Scooby Do movie instead. (“Grave of the Fireflies” is a serious drama set in WWII Japan about a brother and sister desperately trying to survive after the death of their parents. It is told in a style reminiscent of the Italian neorealists, and is an excellent film. It is however not intended for children. At all.)
“Ninja Scroll” is fast paced and energetic enough to sustain one’s interest throughout its 90 minutes running time. While the animation isn’t quite of the ‘gosh wow!’ variety, it serves its purpose quite well.
Action movie junkies – and older teenaged boys – would want to check it out. And don’t be put off by either the word “Ninja” in its title or me mentioning “Mortal Kombat” at the beginning of this review. It is much better than most movies with “Ninja” in their titles and cleverer than any of the dull “Mortal Kombat” movies.
In addition, teenage boys beware: this is NOT a date movie or something you’d want to check out with your parents being present. Get your mates over and tell them to bring a few six packs too . . .