Tuesday, February 3, 2009

City Ninja (aka Ninja Holocaust) (1985)


You'll have to forgive me for this. Wang Lee (Michael Chan) is a successful kickboxer who is asked by his boss to retrieve a necklace that may or may not have the key to a Swiss bank account worth millions. Meanwhile, Jimmy (Casanova Wong), who is also a boxer, is also asked to retrieve the necklace, and is threatened by a red haired stranger (not Willie Nelson) when he retrieves it and decides to hold onto it. Wang Lee is blackmailed into going to Korea to retrieve the necklace, and Jimmy's girlfriend is kidnapped and he has to fight ninjas, A samurai, more ninjas, and eventually Wang Lee to get her back. There's also plenty of nudity, sex on a rowing machine, and a woman is tortured by being twirled around on a big red platform.


Another incomprehensible oddity from Godfrey Ho (or, possibly one of his pseudonyms), who has never seen a movie so bad he couldn't re-edit it and add "ninja" to the title. City Ninja appears to contain at least two films, and the seams of where one movie ends and the other begins start to burst in the second half until the whole thing collapses into a confusing mess. It would all be so much more painful if the films were not so damn entertaining in their own right.

This is how I understand things. They took a softcore sleaze film with Michael Chan(aka Chan Wei Man) called Rocky's Love Affairs, stuck in scenes with Casanova Wong semi-randomly (possibly from a film called 108 Golden Killers), added in some of his own usual ninja footage, and out from the blender came City Ninja (aka Ninja Holocaust). There are, however, scenes where Jimmy (Casanova Wong) and Wang Lee (Michael Chan) actually meet and fight, which gives me a head-ache just to think about.


What both films have going for them is action. While Michael Chan's fight scenes leave a lot to be desired, he manages to bed a bevy of ladies in various states of undress (when they are not showering and/or masturbating). In the film's most bizarre (and entertaining) sexual moment, Wang Lee bangs his manager in a boxing ring, before smoothly transitioning onto a rowing machine. No, I am not making this up.

The Kung Fu is carried by the great Casanova Wong, and he's terrific in his unfortunately sort fight scenes throughout. His trademark kicks look spot on (even when he splits his pants), and there's some fun choreography in fights involving his lady friend (where he manipulates her legs to fight), an excellent (but too dark) confrontation in a parking garage, and, in the film's best scene, where he takes on a crew of ninjas single-handedly. Wong made his name in some top-notch Chinese kung-fu films like The Iron-Fisted Monk and Warriors Two, so it's sad to see him slumming it in a cheap Korean picture. Nevertheless, he still appears to be giving it his all.


The greatest hits effect of stapling these two movies together also means that plot twists come fast and furious and with little rhyme or reason. Wang Lee is established as a hero, cheats on his girlfriend with his manager, gets her pregnant, is blackmailed (and almost killed), tries to run off to Thailand, accidentally kills his pregnant manager, is framed into going to Korea, and finally kills Jimmy before being arrested for the murder he was being framed for *and* the murder of the person who did the initial framing. Got that? No? Didn't think so.

It's hard to know who directed what portions of the film, but it's generally at least competently shot, though with expected choppy editing. The dubbing is just awful, and makes an already difficult plot nearly impossible to follow.


The film is presented in a murky full-screen print that looks to be taken from a VHS source. Dark scenes are hard to watch, but they are thankfully rare. It is available in the Mill Creek Martial Arts 50 pack.

As entertaining, and bizarre, as one would expect from the mix and match methods of the time. It's ultimately impossible to follow, but City Ninja piles on the sex and kung-fu until the audience is beaten into confused submission. Enjoyable in its badness, but thinking too much about the plot is not recommended.

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