Mask of the Ninja Review: Martial Farts
Updated: Apr 17
Dir: Bradford May
Release Date: 2008
“Their vengeance is relentless, their method is ritual, their weapon is secret, and their motive is in their blood”
And their IMDB synopsis is indecipherable.
As part of Ninja November, I delved into this more or less unknown effort from 2008. It is actually a TV Movie, which seems odd considering some of the admittedly violent killings, and it stars the beautiful Casper Van Dien as Jack Barrett.
I'm not entirely sure why this exists but maybe they got wind of Ninja Assassin and Ninja (Big Scott Adkins) being made and thought they'd get in there early. Heads up: Both of those films were released a year later in 2009 and are far better than this one but there is still some fun to be had watching this.
We start with some smoky and shadowy figures leaping about while the credits run and we are introduced to the top players of the Kokushibyu Clan with some names and status captions as they remove their masks - The Masks of the Ninja! These are the bad guys.
An old Japanese man (Dana Lee from Rambo: First Blood Part 2) is outside his enormous house, in his enormous garden doing some exercises with a wooden sword.
Fun Fact: This sword is known as a bokken - 'Bok' - wood - and 'Ken' - sword.
Yes, my name is Sword. So just you watch yourselves!
That's the kind of knowledge that would make Samurai Cop jealous!
His daughter is on the phone talking to some idiot trying to get her to sneak out that night and meet him at the club. He's not important so I won't bother looking up his name.
The old man is Takeo and his daughter is Miko. Miko's stepmother is returning from Tokyo that night so she can't go to the club. We can, however, and away we go and what a treat we have in store.
It's 'Vive - Home of Entertainment' according to the signs and tonight's entertainment features Casper Van Dien pretending to play lead guitar and soloing his way through some generic rock music with an unnamed band. I think I know his guitar teacher.....
Looking incredibly unrealistic, we discover that CVD as Jack Barrett is an undercover cop and wearing an earpiece. Another cop is pretending to be a Valet and is parking cars. The target is none other than the guy who phoned Miko earlier and he is selling drugs to a fat guy inside.
Before we get to that stealthy transaction, we have some Ninja somersaulting about the place back at Takeo's massive house while he has a shave and scaling the walls before shooting a security guard with a small crossbow and sending him over a balcony. Closer scrutiny reveals that their Ninja outfits have faded somewhat in the wash and appear to be more a light charcoal grey than black. Plot point? No. Back to the club.....
"I have the merchandise", this idiot says back at Vive and proudly opens a briefcase to display rather a small supply of pills and stupid cocaine to pretty much everyone there. The fat guys responds in kind and offers another briefcase with hardly any money in it.
Apparently the drugs market is quiet so they changed the deal. The idiot is not happy but this is ignored when they notice he's wearing a wire and they lead him away at gunpoint. A struggle ensues and the gun goes off. GO GO GO!
Mid-song, Jack Barrett the guitarist/undercover cop jumps off stage and goes to arrest these guys along with the valet/undercover cop and other cops/cops from over the road, one of whom is Jack's female partner. Obviously these two flirt a lot.
Back to the house and Miko notices a door is open and goes to investigate only to be confronted by a seemingly mute security guard who just stares at her until getting himself shot by a crossbow
There's a chase where Miko and Takeo evade the Ninja by hiding in a doorway until run past and then go the other way. Oldest trick in the book but it works. Miko is told to run and hide while Takeo takes them on.
He does pretty well and, if he was using a real sword, he would have actually killed 2 of them but, sadly, he is using his trusty bokken and they get back up afterwards. Takeo takes a shuriken to the leg and they approach him
The bald guy from the opening credits (Kunio) removes his mask - The Mask of the Ninja - and demands to know where something is. Takeo declares he'll never tell and after they repeat these sentiments, he is killed with a mighty shout of, "DIE!"
Back at the club, Jack's partner, Gina, is giving him the rollocking of a lifetime for going all gung ho and not waiting for back up. The idiot's phone rings and it is Miko. As he is under arrest for being an awful drug dealer, Jack answers it and decides he'll go and check out her story. Gina tells him to watch his ass. I bet she watches it as he leaves.
Jack arrives at the house and though it has a very impressive gate for security, he is able to easily jump over the small wall nest to it. He finds the dead security guy and is set upon by Ninja! I think the cameraman may also have been under attack as he is unable to hold the camera steady for this fight or any of them later. Jack is kicked into the swimming pool and the Ninja leaves.
Jack meets Miko, they hear sirens and we melt into the next morning when Gina finally arrives and asks 'Coop' for the lowdown. Coop is the black detective and seems to be the only one who knows anything at all.
Coop tells Gina exactly what happened, in what order, explains that Takeo was CEO of a hi-tech company making 'spy stuff', and even tells her what a throwing star is. Jack has dried out and is talking to Miko about nothing at all.
Gina has brought Jack a change of clothes, flirts with him, calling him a 'dumb ass danger jockey' while he strips in front of her and puts on a t-shirt that cleverly has 'POLICE' written on it.
"So he was wearing a mask?" (Mask of the Ninja)
"And he had a sword. That thing must have been 30 inches long"
"Sounds like some crazy ass Samurai"
Is the ridiculous dialogue these two imbeciles engage in next.
Thankfully Coop is listening in and explains what a Ninja is to the amazement and amusement of them both. It's like neither have ever heard of such a thing. Or ever seen a film about them. Or know anything about anything.
Even more thankfully, a Japanese guy shows up and takes over the lesson. This is Hirohito, the advisor of the family and is the guy who has a stick and pulling a stupid face on the film poster at the start. He basically dismisses the cops so they head back to the precinct.
Jack proves himself totally irresistible to women by getting a hug off a female colleague called Mercedes (?) as soon as he walks in but that's cut short by the arrival of the Goddam CSA in the shape of Federal Agent Udell.
I think we're meant to not trust this guy and he does look like a bastard but he actually does nothing shady or remotely double-cross worthy at all so unsure of the vibe they were going for.
He even shares his file about Takeo and tells them more about the company, 'spy satellites, stealth and advanced weapons' and the like. "Hacked the mainframe", is a phrase I've said before to pretend to know shit but it is used here sincerely. Udell also explains that that didn't work so they went to Takeo's house.
Fun Fact: Udell is played by Brad Greenquist who was Victor Pascow in the 1989 Pet Sematary and scared the living shit out of me as a kid. Thanks Brad!
Jack heads to Takeo Technologies instantly where the far more trustworthy Security Chief Garver who tells him that the attempted theft fried their hard drives which means no security footage of the intruders. What are the chances?
Gina is sitting in the car making Origami birds for some reason (there is a reason) and is told by Jack to stop calling these people Ninjas. "They are assassins!", he demands, even though he has clearly seen them and could have looked them up on the internet to confirm Ninja credentials.
They are watching Miko's step-mother arrive and get told the bad news about her husband. They even make a couple of jokes which was a compassionate touch. After this incredibly moving scene, we are away again back to Garver on the phone to some guy.
This guy is getting a massage from a beautiful Asian lady in her bra. After telling us loudly that he is speaking to the hacker who failed to hack the mainframe, Garver helps pick up some files for a poor, helpless lady in the carpark while the hacker requests the masseur skips straight to 'the Happy Ending'. She obliges and takes off her bra. TITS!!!
Unfortunately for Garver, the lady in the car park is not helpless at all but rather the female Ninja from the opening credits so she knees him and then kicks him in the face 3 times. Even more unfortunately, it all gets far worse for Garver.
We are straight back to the Kokushibyu Clan HQ and they are torturing Garver in a quite gruesome scene like in Hostel. He is hanging from the ceiling and covered in blood while this lady cuts him many times.
He is blamed for them making themselves known and now being under the scrutiny of the Police without having anything to show for themselves. Luckily for Garver, they locate the hacker. Unluckily for Garver, they kill him anyway BY CUTTING OFF HIS PENIS!!!
She seems to love doing it but I have no idea why so many guys are comfortable enough to stick around and watch. Garver meets the Carver though am I right?
The cops are investigating the Takeo family only to find nothing. Mercedes suggests they're just all clean to which Jack oddly tells us his 3 wishes if he met a Genie,
"Rich, Powerful and Marked For Death".
I assume he means an uncut Blu-ray release for that last one. Would be nice, I agree.
Hirohito is apparently 'a Spook' which means his files are classified up the ass.
Thankfully, we don't have to stick around long and we get back to the hacker guy who has another Asian lady at his door for massage detail. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that this is once again the female Ninja and kind of suspect that when the hacker requests immediately that they skip to 'the Happy Ending', it won't end quite so happily as the last time.
"Look out she's got a fan!", is what I shouted at the screen but, of course, it was too late. It's poisoned edge caught him and it was all over for the hacker guy. The rest of the Ninja arrive and ransack the place. Got off kind of easily compared to Garver to be honest.
Jack follows Miko to a bar where he is spotted immediately by her associates - maybe he should have pretended to play the guitar to blend in more? She then leaves there and Jack is beaten up by 5 guys. Proper beaten up as well. The camera lurches all over the place, admittedly, but it looks a decent battering.
Fun Fact: Casper Van Dien gets the shit kicked out of him in this film more than any Action Movie leading guy I can remember.
Hiro is meeting an old friend - Shokotu - in the park for a conversation about strategy, death, sacrifice, defeating all enemies and the usual things you chat about with your buddies. Gina is there also hiding and taking photos.
Jack is back in action and his numerous wounds go unnoticed by everyone. CSA Udell mentions again that Takeo is the global espionage technology leader and Coop adds that almost all of the employees have no records at all.
Upon arriving back at Takeo Tech, Jack quickly notices that everyone is dead and there's blood all over the place. He finds an origami bird on the floor with blood on it... "Gina!".
In another room, more dead bodies, more blood and Gina is dead with a sword sticking out of her corpse. I'll admit, I never expected her to just be dead.
Hiro is also there and the only person not dead.
"It's not what you think", he explains.
This stand-off is diffused by bald Ninja Kunio coming in and talking more about alliances and choosing sides and such nonsense. Jack doesn't know whether to shoot or shit so some Ninja come smashing through a window behind him for a big old fight.
Jack takes a throwing star to the arm and gets beaten up again before using a fire extinguisher to beat a swordsman and he and Hiro make a run for it. I'll give you a run down now of some rapid fire questions Jack asks which make him sound like he's just woken up in the middle of watching the film instead of being in it.
J: "Who are these Guys?"
H: "Same people who killed your partner".
J: "Who did you meet at the park?"
H: "Shokotu. I thought he was a friend"
J: "Why did he kill Gina?"
H: "He didn't. It was Kunio"
J: "Kunio, is he in charge?"
H: "No. Come on....."
They end up on some sort of building site and, as Ninja corner them, the cameraman has a seizure or some shit as there are so many flash cut edits it makes you nauseous.
This is quite a lengthy fight that we can't see any of with Hiro taking on the masked ones (Masked of the Ninja) and Jack fighting Kunio AGAIN! He dodges a sword many times and even uses a brick to land a few blows.
It appears that Jack will be struck down when one of the Ninja blocks Kunio from killing Jack (though Jack doesn't see this) and saves his Goddam life! But who was it? And why? And who? It's actually pretty obvious but we'll allow them the mystery for now.
Takeo has apparently made a videotape to be viewed in the event of his death which Hiro now shares with Jack and us because we are now all trustworthy buddies. There is a chip which holds all the info that the Ninja Clan are after and Miko has it though even she doesn't know it. Unbelievable stuff.
We now join Hiro and Jack watching the video of Takeo AGAIN with his widow and some more cryptic info is revealed.
"Ask Miko of the last time we spoke of the Hotaru and then, look beneath the surface..."
As nobody knows what the Hell he is talking about, Jack just promises he'll find Miko and she says they'll all move back to Japan.
Shockingly, someone calls up the Ninja boss and tells him everything about the video. Looks like a classic double-cross. But who was it? And why? And who?
Back at the precinct, Mercedes gives Jack another hug, which would be bordering on sexual harassment if it was the other way round and they are all sad about Gina. Still, at least Miko is safe and in their custody....
Someone tips off the Kokushibyu boss that she is there and they tool up for a FULL ASSAULT! Cue a little montage of weapon checks, bullet proof vests and new masks (New Masks of the Ninja) but no guns whatsoever.
The Ninja double agent turns out to be Hiro's friend, Shokotu (shocker) but he is overheard by the boss as he phones to say he needs to meet. Sadly, he doesn't tell him of the plan there and then but hey, that's Ninja allegiance for you.
The video of dead Takeo must be great as Jack is watching it AGAIN with Miko this time. Miko finds it upsetting and starts to cry so Jack tries to cheer her up by telling her about when his wife was killed by a drunk driver. I think it helped.
We get some intercut scenes of simultaneous action now so I'll try to tell you the main parts......
Hiro and Shokotu meet, disagree about the teachings of the Ninja until they are attacked by these same Ninja and Shokotu takes a double crossbow bolt to save Hiro.
Miko tells Jack that Hotaru means 'firefly' but she doesn't say Fun Fact or anything and the last time they spoke of it was just before she underwent some surgery or other. I think it is pretty clear what's going on there.....
The best part of this, and the best part of the whole film, is the Ninja clan infiltrating the Police Precinct and slaughtering everyone inside. They are being fired upon but are bullet proof and tear through the place in a total kill frenzy. EVERYONE is killed. Coop, Mercedes, the Chief, all stabbed and slashed with slit throats galore. Great stuff.
Everyone is killed EXCEPT Jack and Miko of course. What a turn up that would have been. They stop being chased long enough to wonder how did they know she was there and that they still don't know where the chip is even though I thought they'd figured it out in the previous scene .
Jack is getting beaten up again and carved to pieces by swords until Hiro and Miko's friends arrive to make it a bit fairer. Jack is taken back to base and patched up.
Agent Udell arrives and walks us through the Terminator style cop shop destruction again. Apart from failing in their single objective and not capturing Miko, they really did a great job of it all. Udell has one line...... "My God."
Hiro is explaining to Jack how the Clan boss used to be his Master but he left as he was perverting the ways of the Ninja and there's nothing worse than a Perverted Ninja (Film Pitch title?). Elsewhere, Ninja Bikers (Film Pitch title?) are gearing up and heading out.
Jack and Miko chat about the bloody firefly again, finally work it out that the chip is imbedded in Miko's body beneath a scar on her stomach and have a kiss to celebrate taking so long to figure it all out. Uh-oh! Ninja Attack! (Film Pitch title?)
Jack is beaten up AGAIN and Miko is taken. Jack manages to take out he female Ninja as she rides off by shooting her motorbike until it just explodes. This alerts Miko's friends and they set off in pursuit.
Jack gets the phone off the woman and sees 'Super Secret Evil Ninja Clan HQ' in her recent calls list and tracks the place down immediately. We cut to there to save time.
2 guys followed the Ninja there and, as soon as they enter the building, they are killed. Miko is held and her step-mother is brought in.
"Don't hurt her!", Miko cries.
But wait....... The Step-Mother laughs in her face and.....
"I am Kokushibyu!". She responds, surprising Miko only.
Threats of torture if she doesn't reveal the whereabouts of the chip are interrupted by Hiro shouting "STO-O-O-O-P!" and there is a sword fight scene between him and his former Master, pausing briefly while Jack smashes through a window on a motorbike so he can fight Kunio AGAIN!.
Miko is still tied up but manages to knock her step-mother out while Hiro is stabbed by his Master with a small blade, Miko stabs her step-mother with a similar blade when she comes back at her with a sword.
While Jack is hitting Kunio with his gun, he remembers what guns do and shoots him dead. Hiro similarly remembers what swords do and cuts off the head of the bad guy boss. And we're done with the action. What you could see of it anyway.
Hiro tells Miko that her father would be proud of her and then oddly thanks Jack for his friendship. Jack tells Hiro he's going to be okay which Hiro contradicts by dying immediately which makes Miko cry again even more unconvincingly than the other times.
Udell turns up and asks where the chip is.
Jack looks at Miko.
Jack looks at Udell.
I guess I enjoyed this film and I have definitely seen much worse but I know I won't watch it again. Give it a go if you like Ninjas, Casper Van Dien's face and chips.
Why is it called Mask of the Ninja when they spend an awful lot of the time not wearing masks at all?
How was being the lead guitarist of the band literally on stage in front of everyone a more subtle undercover role than just being a waiter or something?
Can Casper Van Dien even play the guitar?
How come nobody but Coop had ever even heard of Ninjas?
Was the drunk driver who killed Jack's wife a Ninja?
Was Udell a shady character or just doing his job?
Why did they hire a camera crew who seemed to all have an allergic reaction to filming action to work on an action movie? HOLD THE CAMERA STILL!!!
How did nobody notice that Jack kept getting beaten up all of the time?!
And finally...... Where is the chip?
It was going to be Coop for being the only one who had ever heard of a Ninja.
It was going to be Mercedes for just wanting to hug Casper Van Dien all the time.
It has to be Jack though I guess. He takes numerous beatings, from the SAME GUY, and still looks beautiful afterwards. He also plays a mean guitar.......
Police Precinct Massacre - which is actually a good name for a Movie
Hiro: "These are not the streets of Tokyo, Shokotu and we are no longer hungry orphans!"
It just reminded me of Miami Connection who were also AGAINST THE NINJA!!!!
It has to be the decapitation I guess just because they decided to do it.