New York Ninja (2021)

Officially on 4K and Blu-Ray from Vinegar Syndrome on November 1st; will be getting a 35mm release in various theaters and cinemas during the first quarter of 2022.

1984’s “New York Ninja” is that type of classic grindhouse picture where you can almost smell the stale cigarettes, and burnt popcorn wafting from the rows in the discount movie theater. It’s that kind of classic schlocky ninja picture that would have played in a double feature, and that’s a lot of the reason why it’s such a special film. I’d be hard pressed to call “New York Ninja” was good movie at the end of the day. As an experience, though, it’s that kind of silly, ridiculous, campy ninjasploitation soaked in New York City ephemera that you’re bound to fall in love with.

Star John Liu plays John, an average man working as a sound technician for a New York City news station. One day his pregnant wife is brutally murdered after witnessing the kidnapping of a young woman in broad daylight. Turning to the police for help, John soon learns that the city is overrun with crime and the police are too busy to help and solve her crime. Dressing as a white ninja, John takes to the streets as a sword wielding vigilante hell bent on cleaning up the streets of the city he once loved by ridding it of muggers, pickpockets, rapists, and gang members.

However, in John’s quest for justice, he soon finds himself the target of every criminal in the city, including a mysterious villain known only as the Plutonium Killer. As the search for the New York Ninja intensifies, John goes to war as the titular avenger. Will John survive to become the hero that New York City so desperately needs?

Director Liu (and Kurtis M. Spieler’s) movie beautifully taps in to the entire ninja sub-sub genre that became so popular in the eighties, all while unfolding his own superhero story with its feet obviously planted in comic book cheese. Like most of the action from the decade, New York Ninja becomes a folk hero for the lower class, and manages to almost always find himself in the perfect circumstances as a stealthy ninja. Liu’s performance is cartoonish most times, but he’s at his best when he’s donning the Ninja garb, emoting heavily with his eyes and eyebrows, all while sliding around on roller skates, and chucking “NY Ninja” brand throwing stars at criminals from high buildings. Yes, he has branded Ninja weaponry throughout the film.

And without a hint of irony, he becomes his own brand name as his fans proudly don his “I heart NY Ninja” Tees and signs, cheering on his campaign to stop a local sex trafficker and mob boss. The movie is so bizarre and features so many moments of head scratching idiocy that you might find it better experienced with a large crowd and some booze. There’s the camera crew seemingly following all the gangs around watching them terrorize victims without doing anything to help, there are the police who are faster at finding NY Ninja than the sex traffickers kidnapping women in broad daylight. And I’m not too sure why there was a sudden need for a prepubescent sidekick mid-way.

With a voice cast that includes Don “The Dragon” Wilson (Bloodfist), Cynthia Rothrock (Yes, Madam), Leon Isaac Kennedy (Penitentiary), Ginger Lynn Allen (Vice Academy), Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), Linnea Quigley (The Return of the Living Dead), Vince Murdocco (LA Wars), and Matt Mitler (The Mutilator), respectively, “New York Ninja” is an eighties action gem (and 42nd Street time capsule) begging to become a midnight movie hit. ”New York Ninja” comes together so well that it’s actually pretty damn good from the opening title to the fourth wall breaking closing shot.