Dir: Karl Armstrong, 1992.
USA. 87 min.
SATURDAY, APRIL 26 - MIDNIGHT
What’s so funny about fists, love, and understanding? In NINJA VENGEANCE: everything. Part anglicized martial arts extravaganza, part questionably intentioned racesploitation picture, NINJA VENGEANCE is like a mix between THE INTRUDER and SAMURAI COP, and every bit as glorious as that suggests.
Chris is a young stud from Wyoming breezing through the small Texas town of Maynard on his way to “a seminar” when his bike (“one‘uh those foreign jobs”) breaks down. The local racists look kindly upon Chris’s aryan disposition, but when he encounters the entire police force in Klan outfits murdering the town’s educated young black man, he unleashes his righteous ninja fury on them, and they get super pissed and put him in jail. As if bars could hold a ninja trained on the beaches of Wyoming, and who packs throwing stars, ninja rope, and how-to paperbacks called “Ninja” and “Jujitsu” when he travels! Is it too much to hope that the move might climax with two white people, one of them in a sheriff’s outfit, karate fighting in front if a giant burning cross? NO.
NINJA VENGEANCE reflects everything that is wonderful and terrible about the early 90’s obsession with shopping mall-style karate, and also what happens when a bunch of jujitsu champions from Texas try to make a movie about racism. (Uh, let alone a bunch of a jujitsu champions from Texas trying to make a movie, period.) The result, while undeniably earnest and progressive in its intentions, is also flagrantly backwards in execution. Like, if you’re going to make an anti-racist movie, you might not want to give characters names like “Mike’s white friend” and “Mike’s black friend,” to say nothing of the problematic westernization of martial arts. As an added bonus, the film has a punchdance-worthy power rock theme song by the same Brad Rushing who is also credited as second unit director of photography. A very talented bunch, and a shame that somehow pretty much no one involved in this movie went on to do any others.
Trigger warnings: racial slurs and violence