Five Element Ninjas
AKA: Chinese Super Ninja, Chinese Super Ninjas, Super Ninjas
Director: Chang Cheh
Stars: Ricky Cheng, Lo Meng, Shou Tin Hou, Michael Chan, Chen Hei Psi, Yu Tai Pei
Two schools' rivalry comes to a bloody end when the master of the "evil" school (Chen Hei Psi) hires a group of deadly ninjas (led by Michael Chan) to kill the members of the other. The last survivor (Ricky Cheng) travels to find an old sifu who can teach him the art of Ninjitsu. Armed with his new knowledge and some new allies, Cheng heads back to take his revenge.
As you can tell by the synopsis, Five Element Ninjas has the usual kung fu revenge plot. And since this film was done towards the end of old-school kung fu's life cycle, it doesn't appear to have much of a budget at all -- the outdoor sets look laughably bad, and some of the costumes look like they were put together by a blind old lady with arthritis. The pacing is a bit poor, the editing could have used some work, and some of the "special effects" (mostly running the camera backwards) aren't very special at all.
However, if you're willing to forgive some shortcomings, Five Element Ninjas offers up heaps of old-school goodness through some very bloody (for its' time) action. Though things are a bit tame by today's standards, there are some choice tidbits, including Lo Meng continuing to fight even with his intestines hanging down his pant leg, and a ninja getting pulled apart limb-by-limb. The fight co-ordination is also very solid, making for some energetic and exciting fight scenes, especially when compared to more modern films, which tend to depend too much on camera tricks and special effects rather than talent.
Some props must also be given out to some of the actors involved. Ricky Cheng, Lo Meng and Michael Chan all do a great job of bringing dimensionality to their under-written characters, and the supporting cast (especially Yu Tai Pei as a mysterious woman who the "good" clan befriends) helps things along as well. Overall, Five Element Ninjas is a solid old-school movie that might just bring in a few new fans to the genre because of the over-the-top nature of the film's violence.
Note: there appear to be three versions of Five Element Ninjas: an uncut one, a roughly PG-13 version which omits the nudity and some of the gore from the uncut version, and a version made for TV which is the most heavily edited. Most video versions (such as Chinese Super Ninja and Super Ninjas) are the PG-13 cut.
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