Made in 2005 and released to theaters for about five minutes, Ninja's Creed was originally born under the alternate title of Royal Kill, which isn't really any better or worse a title. The film somehow managed to be Pat Morita's swansong, he passed away shortly after his work on the picture was done, but Lionsgate would like you to believe that it's a starring vehicle for WWE Diva, Gail Kim. That's her, looking both foxy and dangerous, there on the cover art to the right.
When the movie begins, some ridiculously pompous narration alerts us to the fact that two mystical and completely made up kingdoms are deeply involved in a power struggle. We know these kingdoms are at least exotic, as they exist somewhere in Asia and a wonky still painting is shown on screen as our narrator brings us up to speed. One side is evil and they've managed to knock off everyone of the heirs to the throne of the good side but one thanks to their wise decision to employ the services of an assassin named Nadia (Gail Kim) who is, despite what the title implies, not really a ninja at all. The good guys have an ace up their sleeve, however, in the form of a tough guy named Adam Artahvan (Alexander Wraith). The last surviving heir to the good guy's throne is named Jan (Lalaine), who has somehow wound up in the care of her American father (Eric Roberts). As Adam, with some help from Mister Miyagi, sets out to find her and bring her back to rule their kingdom, the sexy but evil assassin gives chase. From there the movie rips off Fight Club and Clue while trying to dazzle us with infrequent and poorly staged action sequences until the inevitable finale and big twist ending, which appears here sans rad a Pixies song and any obvious appearance from Lee Ving, sadly.
Where to start... okay, first off, this isn't a ninja movie. It's got some fighting in it and some treachery where and there, but don't expect any Sho Kosugi style pajama clad sneak attacks or Shinobi No Mono inspired lunacy. Instead, the action here is, not surprisingly, shot close in using a shaky-cam to give it that Bourne Identity feel, you know, the kind of look that worked well in that trilogy but which has since been ripped off to the point where it now feels old and tired? In the film's defense, it was made in 2005, when that craze was in full swing, but really here it seems like a way to compensate for a low budget and to hide the fact that the cameraman really don't seem to know how to shoot a fight scene in the first place.
Another of the film's many bizarre traits is the tendency to have much of the dialogue delivered by parties off screen. Unlike the opening sequence, this isn't narration, but actual character dialogue. Likely a way to do most of the voice work via ADR, and in turn save on retakes and continuity issues, it gives the film a really odd tone. Add to that the fact that the film's two name actors - Pat Morita and Eric Roberts - were obviously hired for a single day and you wind up with a movie in which they basically never appear on camera with the other actors but instead interact with people who are obviously not there or spend a lot of time on the phone in an attempt to mask yet another staple of the low budget filmmaking industry. And then there's the scene where Pat Morita's character speaks backwards for some reason...
It all adds up to a strange film. Roberts and Morita show absolutely no enthusiasm for this project, both actors seemingly well aware that the material really is beneath them, which contrasts with the rather eager performances from Kim (whose thighs can literally kill a man, if he should be so lucky!) and Wraith (who was obviously first in line on the day when God was handing out cool last names). The violence is present but never as extreme as the movie wants us to think it is, while the concept really just basically buries itself with one unoriginal and predictable twist after another to the point where it becomes nigh impossible to take any of it seriously. The fact that the filmmakers obviously wanted us to do just that says something about the film, but somehow manages to make it all the more amusing in spite of itself. If that doesn't sell you on it, that's ok.
Ninja's Creed arrives on DVD in a 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While a few stock footage inserts stand out like a sore thumb, the film looks okay for the low budget affair that it is. Shot fast and cheap, sometimes detail suffers at the hands of some inferior lighting but color reproduction is generally decent enough even if black levels aren't quite reference quality. While hardly a remarkable image, it's watchable enough. Just keep in mind that it uses a lot of shaky-cam work and was made for very little money - the look and picture quality reflects those budgetary constraints.
The sole audio option on this release is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, with optional subtitles in English and Spanish. There's enough activity throughout the mix that it'll make you stand up and take notice when it needs to, but it's really nothing all that exciting for the most part. The score sounds alright, and dialogue is clear and well balanced but there isn't quite as much punch as you might expect here and the bass response is a little less powerful than you'd probably hope for. There aren't any serious problems to report, it's just a little underwhelming is all. For some reason, there are a few spots where the ADR appears to be suffering from synch problems.
There isn't a lot here but there is a behind the scenes featurette that clocks in at just over six minutes and length and which features some interviews with a couple of the cast members. It's too short to offer much substance. Likewise, the two and a half minute piece on the making of the score for the picture is little more than superficial promotional material. More substantial are the four deleted scenes (five minutes worth) and the nineteen minutes of outtakes from the shoot.
Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, some menus, and chapter selection.
Ninja's Creed is a pretty bizarre film. It never really works very well but it's got enough head scratching moments that fans of bad action movies might want to rent it. The PG-13 rating means that the violence never gets too over the top but it's got enough unintentionally funny dialogue and screwball plot devices that, should the worst that B-moviedom have to offer appeal to you, there is some entertainment value to be found. It's amusing, if for all the wrong reasons. Those not into the lowest of the low can safely skip it, the curious would be best served with a rental first.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.