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Irish American Ninja
We Irish Americans are known for many things (mostly drinking), but I bet you've never heard of an Irish American Ninja. At least I hadn't, not until I sat down to watch Bill Sebastian's film of the same namesake. As you'd probably expect this film is very independent and really designed to be a spoof of the American Ninja series from the movie vault that time forget.
Irish American Ninja is a difficult movie to grade. There really isn't a cohesive story or structure to the film, the pacing is erratic, it is poorly acted, perpetually cheesy and over-the-top in every regard. So why then am I recommending it? There are points where this film hits pure genius and despite all of its flaws, it truly is hysterical. Oh, and I also love ninjas.
Much to his mother's dismay, all George McGoogle (Sebastian) ever wanted to be was a ninja. He spent countless hours as a child sitting in front of the TV watching Jean-Luc Van Deussen kung fu movies, and absolutely worshipped the man. One fateful day George was beaten up by a pair of bullies, but what really took the cake was when they killed his stuffed monkey. In no time George was on a plane to Japan so that he could train in the ways of the ninja.
Naturally George became a white ninja, because black ninjas are evil (as everyone knows). The two are constantly at war with each other and we see various examples of just how bad black ninjas can be. Whether it's beating up alternateens or showing off their mad b-ball skills, you get to see just how truly sinister they are. As fate would have it though, George's long-thought-dead brother, Gertrude (James Cable), enters the scene as one of the bad guys. From here the film follows George's rise and fall from fame as a Hollywood ninja and really becomes a mess.
The entire movie is set up like a documentary and the bulk of it is shown in the form of flashbacks. This works wonders for some of the earlier stages such as setting up his character, but once George loses his brother (again) and searches aimlessly for a life with meaning, the film becomes stagnant. It's a shame too, because it only clocks in at 74 minutes and frankly about half of that could have been cut out.
If that had been done, what would have been left was pure gold. Seeing George's youthful musings of being a ninja and even going through his training are scenes with nonstop laughter. Even his reuniting with Gertrude prompts hilarious bits where the two ninjas play Frisbee, skip through fields of flowers and play peek-a-boo. It's the ninja moments where the movie sparkles, everything else in between really just feels like filler. Even so, this is a witty film that tip-toes the line of genius and idiocy that will be appreciated by viewers who enjoy that style, but probably not the average passerby.
Irish American Ninja comes with a 1.85:1 non-anamorphic presentation that is pretty good for a low-budget feature. The quality is distinctly different depending what type of scene is taking place. The documentary portions feature some very crisp imagery with little to no grain and an overall clean appearance, but the other bits are a different story. They are covered with speckle, grain, softness and in general, a style befitting a ninja movie from the 80s. A cleaner presentation would have gone a long way here, but as it stands a lot of the apparent flaw here may have been intentional.
The only audio available on the disc is English 2.0 stereo. The quality is decent for the most part, but there are times where the sound becomes muffled and the volume fluctuates. There is little to no directionality in the mix though you can't really expect a lot from a stereo track. Being a parody of a ninja movie, don't be surprised to hear some bad accents and out of sync voice and mouth movements. No subtitles are offered.
I'm very pleased to report that some decent bonus material actually made its way onto the disc. It has been my experience that most independent film releases don't offer a lot of extra content, so I was pleasantly surprised to see what Irish American Ninja offered. For starters there are a grand total of thirteen deleted scenes. It's pretty easy to see why most of these were cut, though the "Lost in Tokyo" scene is great.
There is also a pretty in depth behind the scenes featurette that offers up a ton of information about the film and what Sebastian went through to make it. A commentary track finds its way onto the disc as well and features Sebastian, Frank Mastrangelo (who plays Frank in the film) and a brief appearance by Brock Epstein from Filmout. There's a lot of experience related discussion about the film, and some stuff about the process of making it. It's also pretty funny at times, especially when they start ripping their own movie.
Irish American Ninja is the perfect example of a low budget film that can take a silly idea and turn it into something special. The only problem is that the center of the movie loses focus from the hilarious promise of the first thirty minutes or so. Even so this is a project that will be most appreciated by viewers who enjoy independent cinema, cheesy ninja flicks or cracked-out comedies. It's certainly not flawless, but there are enough laughs here to warrant a recommendation.