Film: Rogue Ninja
UK Release date: 5th September 2011
Director: Seiji Chiba
Starring: Mika Hijii, Masayuki Izumi, Mituki Koga, Kentarou Shimazu
Running time: 70 mins
Genre: Martial Arts/Action
Reviewer: Adam Wing
Seiji Chiba sure loves his ninja movies. The Kunoichi: Ninja Girl, Alien vs. Ninja, Evil Ninja - its safe to assume that he’s comfortable within the action genre. Fans on these shores are likely to be familiar with Alien vs. Ninja, an action spoof that was little more than a sixty-minute fight sequence. There was enough mutilation and mayhem to keep you from reaching for the remote control though, even if it lacked the invention of some of its siblings.
Rogue Ninja lacks anything approaching comedy aliens, with Chiba instead choosing to take his latest foray incredibly seriously. It's the 16th Century, a period of civil war in Japan, and stuck right in the middle are the Iga ninja. Rather than stand firm against the Nobunaga Oda and the Koga ninja that have joined forces, the Iga turn on themselves, dispensing with each other and saving enemy clans the trouble. Its all part of a power struggle between the Iga high leaders and the Iga lesser leaders, a power struggle ninja Ukagami (Mika Hijii) is all too familiar with.
Being somewhat easy on the eye, she gains the attention of the lesser ninja’s leader. He’s bored of the women in his life, but then, how many ways can a woman please a man if she’s bound and gagged in his quarters? We know he’s evil by the way he treats his women, killing them before telling his comrades to rape them before they get too cold. Nice. Now he wants Ukagami, and he's willing to do anything he can to possess her, including killing her and I’m guessing, passing her dead body around like a tube of Pringles at a house party.
Ukagami has a brother called Kino, they’re not blood related and he belongs to the Koga family, but Kino was raised by Ukagami’s parents and they treat each other like kin. Kamari is the token love interest; or rather he would be, if ninja’s were permitted to marry. In order to get to Ukagami, the lesser ninja’s leader kidnaps Kamari and draws her to him, culminating in a bloody battle that wont end well.
For a film that clocks in at just over an hour, there’s a lot of exposition to wade through. The characters in Rogue Ninja sure like to talk, conspiring, deliberating, or just plain standing around putting the world to rights - you sometimes get the feeling that the world of Rogue Ninja is set inside a giant girl’s bathroom. It’s a low budget affair, which explains why most of the movie is set in a forest, but Rogue Ninja becomes very repetitive as a result. The characters stand beneath trees, have a chat, get involved in a fight, chat some more - then they move on and do it all over again.
The action sequences are the films only saving grace. The battle scenes are tightly choreographed - fast, fluid and energetic - but it’s fair to expect that of Seiji Chiba by now, if he still hasn’t got the hang of ninja action then all hope is lost. Unfortunately there’s nothing to separate one action sequence from the next, with the battle scenes possessing less personality than the great oaks they’re hidden within. Furthermore, Rogue Ninja seems to have landed on DVD without a final act. The final battle takes place midway through the movie; the surviving characters have a little chat and then the movie ends. It’s not like there isn’t more of the story to tell, but the ending feels rushed and incomplete - maybe they ran out of trees.
With a final battle that takes place in, what looks like, the same cave as Alien vs. Ninja, Chiba could be accused of making the same film again - without the rubber costumes and without the comedy. Rogue Ninja has very little going for it beyond attractive leads and entertaining fight choreography. As for me - I kind of miss the alien.