Ninja: Silent Assassin

Director:Godfrey Ho                                
Richard Harrison, Alphonse Beni, Stuart Smith

(Thanks to Mike at Dante's Inferno for providing this movie!)

I think it's time that I review another of those ludicrous pseudo-ninja movies, being several months since I looked at Ninja Protector. Like that movie, this entry is done by the same people and with the same Caucasian actors appearing in inserts around footage of an unfinished Hong Kong martial arts film. I was surprised by several differences here, though. For one thing, there is a lot more insert footage to be found here than in other movies of this kind. There's actually enough ninja footage here so that it could indeed be considered a bona fide ninja movie. Especially since the movie focuses the same amount of attention on the characters in these inserts as in the insert footage. The unfinished footage is redubbed and edited together with the insert footage to form a saga that actually makes sense! Complicated as the story is, I was always able to figure out what was going on, and why. The plotting of this movie is definitely better than average for this patchwork genre. That doesn't mean to say that the movie is genuinely good, though. Though the story may be coherent, the execution of it is utterly hilarious. It's not what you do, but how you do it, and Ninja: Silent Assassin does it so badly, it becomes an instant so-bad-it's-good classic. If you haven't watched any of these movies before, this movie is an excellent introduction.

Even the opening credits are hilarious. While the credits play onscreen, two Caucasian ninjas, desperately trying to stay still in their fighting poses, stare big-eyed into the other's eyes. While this is going on, the theme music from Miami Vice (!) plays. The story then starts somewhere in Europe, where a drug deal is going down. Suddenly, to explain the Miami Vice music no doubt, a black and a white cop appear to bust the dealers, and a shootout begins. Lenny, one of the dealers, tries to escape, but the black cop manages to get ahead of him and cut him off by doing three somersaults in the air and multiple backflips during his run. (This sequence is especially funny.) Catching Lenny, Alvin (the black cop) then hisses, "I know what you're thinking....did he fire six shots or five shots only? To tell the truth, in this excitement, I forgot myself." Yep - completely ripped off from Dirty Harry.

Alvin takes Lenny to an interrogation room, where Lenny is made miserable by a desk lamp shining into him, plus all the cigarettes he wants to smoke. This scene really makes clear how atrocious the dubbing is - Alvin and Lenny sound like they were dubbed by someone who didn't have English as a first language. Lenny is afraid his boss Rudolph - the biggest heroin dealer in Europe - will kill him if he talks. So Alvin sweetens the deal by offering protection and $500,000. (I'd love to hear what a judge would think of this.) Two cops are then assigned to protect Lenny. When Ruldoph hears of this, while exercising with his fellow ninjas at his ninja training camp (...ooookayyyyy....), he and his fellow ninjas ambush Lenny and the cops. Ruldolph exclaims, "You are a traitor! And traitors must die!", and Lenny quickly does.

Alvin is still in bed that morning when some other ninjas come to his house and are considerate enough to knock on his door. His wife (wearing no pants) answers the door, and is ambushed by the ninjas. When he hears the ruckus, in a puff of smoke he turns into a yellow ninja, quickly making work of the two bad ninjas. Holding his dying wife, he's given by her a watch and told solemnly, "Our fourth anniversary....I'm afraid there won't be a fifth." before she dies, resulting in the actor playing Alvin giving off another chance to act very badly. Ruldolph by now has fled to Hong Kong to visit his associate, a fellow named Norman, about a plan to ship drugs to Europe by train. Before he steps into the office, Temple is telling a fellow named Tiger to take over the fishing market. As it was in a scene from Ninja Protector, you never see the Asian fellow and the Caucasian fellow in the same shot. The union leader of the fish market is all of a sudden seen puking in an alley. Possibly taking offense to this, someone charges up to him and stabs him in the gut and kills him, hopefully waiting until the guy's belly was empty. A feeble-minded fellow witnesses this in hiding, only seeing a tattoo of a phoenix on the killer's chest.

Alvin, meanwhile, has flown out to Hong Kong for revenge, and to possibly get help from his policeman friend Gordon (Harrison). Gordon is currently on a taskforce investigating Tiger. Of course, since any of these Caucasians appearing at the same time onscreen as Tiger would be impossible, the team decides to get two Asians to investigate Tiger, since they happen to have appeared in the unfinished film. They are Jackie, a recent police academy graduate who is posing as a doctor (think about that for a moment!), and Vivian, a butch-looking young woman in a silver jacket and short hair. At the end of the meeting, Gordon is given a lecture by the police captain concerning Gordon's harsh tactics: "You're a good cop - but I don't like your style!" Gordon replies, "To each his own."

Vivian rides her motorbike into the outskirts of town where a group of tough street youths is gettin' down by doing a straight-line dance involving the shuffling of feet and doing backflips in the air. Suddenly, that feeble-minded witness runs to the leader of the gang, yelling "Eggman! Eggman!" Huh? Well, while we are confused, "Eggman" is told that his father was killed. "Eggman" immediately runs home and starts looking in his father's papers. It's here that we find out his name is actually Edmund - I told you the dubbing was especially bad in this movie. There's a woman in the room who seems to be some relation to Edmund, but it's not explained. Wife? Sister? What? (We eventually find out, but only near the very end.) Also, her stares seem to indicate she's blind or something, but there's no explanation for this here either. (You also have to wait later for an explanation for this.) Anyway, Edmund swears revenge against this mysterious tattooed person, and he starts his revenge by going around town and beating up people pretty much at random. When he confronts Tiger, and another savage fight breaks out, a policeman arrives and scolds Edmund by saying, "Young man, don't make trouble if you don't want to go to prison!"

Meanwhile, Alvin finally meets with Gordon, who has brought in an Asian fellow named John Lee to help. With this multiracial trio, I guess this movie could now be renamed Ebony, Ivory, and Jade. Then we suddenly see Ruldolph in training, hitting swords with another ninja to remind us this is a ninja movie. Then we suddenly see Gordon back at the station, being chewed out by the police captain about his screwing up of another case, and how the D.A. will be angry. (Hey, wait a minute - at least before 1997, Hong Kong had crown prosecutors, not D.A.s!) Gordon's response? "Tell him to f**k off!"

While Edmund and Vivian team up to find Edmund's father's killer (hey - what happened to Jackie?), Alvin and John Lee pay a fellow named Peter to find Ruldolph. What they don't know is Peter is secretly working for Ruldoph, and when Peter explains things to Ruldolph, Ruldolph arranges for two of his ninjas to hit Alvin and John Lee in the park. How do Alvin and John Lee react to seeing two ninjas in front of them? Alvin instantly whips out a throwing star, and John Lee whips out a gun and fires. End of battle.

Knowing that his father's killer has a phoenix tattooed on his chest, Edmund then goes around and rips off people's shirts at random. When Vivian comes by, he rips off her jacket. What he finds shows to him what a real boob he was, so he apologizes by saying, "I'm sorry - I didn't realize you were a girl." (Considering what's under that jacket, I can understand that.) Vivian seems to understand, so they head out to the country to where there's an illegal gambling shack. Edmund leaps in and tells the surprised gamblers, "Take your clothes off! I want to see your tattoos!" They don't take kindly to this, and after a few minutes of fighting, they chase Edmund to a high suspension bridge, where he jumps off to the water far below. Edmund survives, but he isn't satisfied - he keeps ripping off people's shirts everywhere he goes.

I won't spoil any more of the movie, except to say that in both plots there is both more utter nonsense and fighting. The fights here and in other parts of the movie are definitely above average. The ninja fights are, on average, longer than usual for a Godfrey Ho movie, and they are more exciting as well, with some impressive stunts. The martial arts in the Edmund/Vivian segments may not be up to Jackie Chan or Jet Li, but they are very well done, especially the long and grueling climactic fight. Of course, everything surrounding these fights scenes is unbelievably bad, but it's a good kind of bad. Ninja: Silent Assassin is one of the best guilty pleasures in the martial arts section in your video store - great action scenes, and extremely laughable ineptness everywhere else. I think I'll have to check out more of these movies sometime in the future.

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See also: Fantasy Mission Force, Ninja Champion, Troma's War