Movie Review – Ninja’s Still Heart (2014)
The Still Heart Ninja, 2014.
Directed by Rob Baard and John Balazs.
With Danny Glover, Rob Baard, Roger Neave, John Balazs, Cassandra Gava.
Reeve is a member of an elite secret group believed to no longer exist, he is captured, beaten and brutally tortured, by the same governments he worked for. With the help of his former mentor John Carpenter, Reeve must strip down and rid himself of emerging demons from his past, so that he can understand the very essence of Ninjutsu, the Ninja’s steadfast heart, in order to remember how and why he was captured, and what he’s supposed to do, before time runs out and his captors find out why he’s really here.
The humble ninja movie. It has long been a staple of the B movie. From cheap to big budget, ninja screen cinema has provided plenty of entertainment. In the 80s in particular, video stores were full of cheap ninja movies. Actor Sho Kosugi starred in a series of films with the word “ninja” in the title, while legendary B film director Godfrey Ho (think Asia’s response to Ed Wood) had a ridiculous amount of films. ninja. So listen up we are, 2015, the year of the hoverboard, and for your viewing pleasure, another ninja flick. This time with Danny Glover…
Yes. This does not sound quite right. Nonetheless, Glover is the big name here. Does that also mean lavish production value? Well no. It’s insanely cheap, but in a ninja movie, he’s not an end player. Just to clarify too, Danny Glover doesn’t play a ninja because let’s face it “he’s too old for that shit”.
The titular ninja is played by Rob Baard, who also created what will become a franchise (there have been short prequels, and a sequel is in the works) and co-directed (with John Balazs). Baard plays Reeve, an elite soldier, trained ninja-style by John Carpenter (no, not him, a character played by Roger Neave). He is captured and tortured. He must exorcise demons from his past in order to remember how and why he was captured, and what he is supposed to do. If that sounds a bit confusing, it is. Storylines are never the strongest trait in a ninja movie, but this one takes the cookie.
The problem with this movie is that aside from a sketchy storyline that goes nowhere, the narrative structure also adds to the confusion. Much of the film is a flashback and often from the perspective of different characters. The film sometimes goes directly from one flashback to another, then vice versa. It’s all over the place and just stretches out what’s just enough intrigue to cover a 20 minute short. Unfortunately this film lasts an hour and three quarters (indeed, much too long for a ninja film). The movie is mediocre in almost every department, and although it’s listed as having a budget of around $ 1million oz, it looks like nothing (unless that equates to around 3,000 pounds).
It’s in charge of the kind of CGI 12-year-olds put together on homemade YouTube videos, while the fight footage feels a bit hit and miss. There are also issues with the sound and dialogue looping (although this could just be a bad filter). Now granted, unheard of comedic fights, bad voice acting and bad acting… yeah, I’m watching a ninja movie, that’s okay. What is missing is a friendly and laughable charm though. Lots of those terribly evil ninja movies from the ’70s and’ 80s, the trash video specials were entertaining. It’s a kind of bad numbness.
Danny Glover spends almost his entire role in a room with a green screen behind him, casting an unconvincing background. He looks a little confused, like he’s wondering in the wrong movie set and wondering when Mel is coming. He recites the horrific dialogue with a bewildered air and sometimes looks at the camera almost like a hostage. It’s a little sad to see him reduced to that. The other notable actor is Cassandra Gava who Conan the Barbarian fans might remember the witch. Baard lacks star charisma and power, but fair play for him to have given himself the task of creating his own potential franchise and bringing it to fruition. It’s commendable and some will no doubt stop at the DVD while browsing the charts and wonder what a Danny Glover ninja movie looks like. Hats off to Baard. It’s a lesson for all aspiring movie stars, screenwriters and directors. If you want something done, do it yourself. Don’t wait for something to fall in your lap.
Overall, it won’t be one of the most memorable ninja movies. It’s probably not the worst either, but it’s still pretty gruesome, without the conscious irony that might have made him a winner if he was manipulated a bit more like Black dynamite for example.
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