Shadow Fury (2001)- * * 1\2
Directed by: Makato Yokoyama
Starring: Fred Williamson, Sam Bottoms, Gregory Vahanian, Bas Rutten, Cassandra Grae, Pat Morita, Alexndra Kamp, Allen Kolman, Masakasu Funaki, Jeanette McCurdy, and Taylor Lautner
When Dolly the Sheep was cloned in July of 1996, it was a very inspirational time for us all. Now everyone on earth knew we were open to a world of sheep-cloning possibilities. It was only a matter of time until we got cloned ninjas. Clearly, "clone fever" is what inspired Dr. Oh (Morita) to create Takeru (Funaki), a nigh-on unkillable super-ninja with amazing fighting and murdering capabilities. After cloning is banned, Dr. Oh sics Takeru on his former associates Dr. Forster (Kamp), Dr. Markov (Vahanian), and Dr. Hiller (Kolman), in some sort of act of revenge. So Nova Corp, the original clonemakers (which should be their slogan) hires a bounty hunter named Mitchell Madsen (Bottoms) to stop Takeru. Because Madsen has a failing liver, he thinks he can kill two ninjas with one stone and take Takeru's after he smites him down.
In order to achieve his goal, Madsen goes to see Sam (The Hammer), a sort of Machine Gun Joe character. Meanwhile, Nova Corp is developing a sort of super-teen with Martial Arts abilities named Kismet (the original tot is played by Taylor Lautner, but he grows up fast and two other people - including MMA man Bas Rutten - take on the role as well). As if all that wasn't enough, your classic Hooker With a Heart of Gold named Sasha (Grae) somehow manages to fall in love with the emotionless Takeru. But can Takeru learn to...love? And will friends become enemies and enemies become friends? Who has the ultimate SHADOW FURY?
While it opens with a bang, and the idea of cloned ninjas is a fairly cool one, we suspect that this is the type of production that really, really hoped it would become a cult movie but never did. As we've seen countless times before, you cannot intentionally manufacture a cult movie. It just has to happen on its own. That aside, Shadow Fury seems to fall into the category of the Scanner Cop series, the Cyborg Cop series, Steel and Lace (1991), The Demolitionist (1995), or even perhaps I Come In Peace (1990). We're not even going to mention the similarities to The Terminator (1984). It's all served up with a strong Japanese twist, thanks to director Makoto Yokoyama, who worked a lot with stunts, including with the Power Rangers. That style just may come across here in the wackier side of the unrealistic, wire-type fighting.
Pat Morita's hair in the film is almost worth the price of admission alone. Maybe it was inspired by Anime characters, but who can really say? It's as over the top as some of the fight scenes. Alexandra Kamp looks a lot like Sarah Palin, at least in her role here as Dr. Forster. Fan favorite Fred Williamson doesn't do a lot. It's a glorified cameo, but we were still happy to see him. The character of Madsen (characters named Madsen and Forster? Could the writers have been deliberately referencing Tarantino-associated actors here?) was ably done by Bottoms. It seems they were going for a They Live-era Piper vibe with this character. What with the other references on show, that's probably the case.
There really are some cool ideas here, and the silliness, action and silly action will carry you relatively easily to the 90-minute mark. But something still feels missing that would make it a more satisfying viewing experience. It's hard to say what that is, exactly, but by 2001, DTV was in the doldrums. Perhaps it's that, plus the references to other things, and synthetic fight scenes - in place of a more substantial heart and soul - that would cause viewers not to totally warm to Shadow Fury.
All that being said, if you find the VHS tape at Goodwill, as we did, it's certainly worth a purchase for a dollar or two. But probably not more than that.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty
Also check out a write up from our buddy, DTVC!