Lethal Ninja (1992)


Lethal Ninja
(1992)- * *

Directed by: Yossi Wein 

Starring: Ross Kettle, Karyn Hill, Norman Coombes, David Webb, and Ken Gampu

Joe Ford (Kettle) is some sort of cross between an art teacher and a yoga instructor who teaches "creation by meditation". Naturally, he lives in San Francisco. When he gets word that his wife Dominique (Hill) has been kidnapped, he goes to see his buddy Brannigan (Webb), and the two men go to Lake Oduba in Africa where she's being held. Kray (Coombes), the man who took her, claims he needs her for her "microbiology skills". Because her scientific encampment was besieged by ninjas, Ford and Webb decide they need to fight ninja with ninja and they become ninjas themselves, which is apparently something you can do overnight. Somehow tied into all this silliness is a Nostradamus prophecy. Will things get salty as Kettle chips away at the baddies?

The Ninja Boom meets the Africa slog in this lackluster outing. At first, we were excited to see a man named Ross Kettle be the imposing LETHAL NINJA that we see on the Vidmark box cover. Very quickly, disappointment set in when we saw how boring and lifeless it all is. It's like a lot of Yossi Wein/Nu Image movies. There are no interesting characters, dialogue, plot developments, or ideas - except for one, which we'll mention shortly. Even the time-honored barfight (at a place called New York Disco) is only about 30 seconds long.

In 1992, when Lethal Ninja came out, the American Ninja series was still very popular in video stores. But Wein and Nu Image failed to recreate that Cannon magic. Getting a guy who looks like Michael Pare (Kettle) and a guy who looks like Steve James (Webb) - not to mention a baddie that looks like Malcolm McDowell (Coombes) just wasn't enough. 

Like in a lot of other Africa-shot movies, they got Ken Gampu, which is usually a good thing, but his screen time is extremely limited. Unfortunately, the main star and lead of the movie, Ross Kettle, is a charismaless personality vacuum. He looks almost exactly like Michael Pare, but makes Pare look like Regis Philbin by comparison in the energy department. You might say Kettle is sub-Pare. It seems the filmmakers made every wrong decision. Except one...

There is exactly one good idea in Lethal Ninja. I've got the two words you've been waiting your whole life to hear: rollerskating ninjas.

That's right, at one point Joe (the same first name as Dudikoff in the aforementioned American Ninja series) goes into a warehouse and is encircled by a gaggle of dudes in ninja pajamas skating all around him. Their skates have blades that jut out from the sides. Think Xanadu (1980) meets ninjas. Amazingly, even this fantastic innovation isn't really capitalized upon. They just skate around him for a few minutes and there's no big blowout fight. They even managed to screw that up. But for a while it was really cool.

Throughout the film, things perk up whenever there is a ninja attack. I'm not sure why they didn't think of this at the time, but there should have been more ninja attacks. Besides the brief barfight, other cliches include some exploding huts and a Prerequisite Torture scene of the heroes. Interestingly, this time around, Kettle is held above a rectangular vat of boiling oil. Just like you would do with a potato chip. Could this be a coincidence?

Not to be confused with the David Heavener outing Lethal Ninja (1991) AKA For Hire, this Lethal Ninja is basically the same movie as Danger Zone (1996)...but with ninjas. The whole thing is very plain and lacks excitement or thrills. It's ultimately an empty kettle. We doubt Lethal Ninja will be your kettle of fish.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out reviews from our buddies, DTVC and The Video Vacuum!

1 comment:

SOA said...

I think this one is pretty good.