Fight everyone and trust no one.
Entire Story In Fewer Words Than Are In This Sentence:
White ninja seeks revenge, punishes many evil brown men.
Anachronistically newer entries into the 80s Action canon have unfortunately been less generous than the Schwarzenegger & JCVD fare of yesteryear with their contributions to this important category. That is, lately, action films with noticeably gay undertones & hilariously homoerotic imagery have been far too rare. NINJA 2: SHADOW OF A TEAR is here to fix that.
This is a film with only 3 female speaking roles. One is murdered in the first 11 minutes. One is a waitress with 8 seconds of screen time. One is a random dive bar hostess/prostitute who utilizes her 3.1 seconds of screen time to solicit our gorgeous leading man; it takes him less than one second to turn her away, clearly uninterested if not repulsed by the very idea of a sexual encounter with any human being in possession of soft curves & a vagina.
A few female extras lend production value by filling in the background of a few shots, but this is a film with no desire to celebrate the fairer sex. Not a single one of these petite Asian ladies is sexualized, exploited, ogled by the camera, or even noticed by any of the uberbuff, perpetually moistened males that populate the strangely beautiful-yet-workmanlike milieu of dtv action auteur celebre du jour Isaac Florentine. The scene that introduces our hero (or re-introduces him, if youve seen the inessential but highly entertaining first Florentine-Adkins entry of this NINJA franchise) is a sparring match with his wife in which he repeatedly tosses her out of the way and then literally refuses to place his hands on her. Because women in 80s Action-style macho-homo cinema are just gross.
After our hero’s wife’s early demise, he is offered solace by a buddy & training partner who crashes her funeral and suggests, “Why don’t you come to my dojo in Thailand?”
At one point, still freshly lamenting the untimely passing of his wife, White Ninja visits an outdoor Thai pub, and somehow the only people to notice him are a gaggle of drunken dudes who proceed to feel the wrath of his drunken fists & spin kicks. I dont know if you’ve ever been to an outdoor Thai bar, but if you look like Scott Adkins and show up at one, in real life it’s a reasonable certainty that exposed female genitalia & nipples begging for your cash-only business will suddenly occupy every nearby bar stool. Not the case for Adkins in this Thai bar; he is solicited only by other dudes, with predictable results.
In a way, none of Scott Adkins’s cinema oeuvre requires any suggestive man-on-man banter or fight scenes that symbolize & substitute for sexual intercourse, because the very visage of Mr. Adkins is enough to stiffen all lucky penises in the lucky audience with access to his glistening, mostly shirtless filmography.
Lets be honest – Adkins is the perfect human being. Girls want to do him; guys want to be him, and do him.
He somehow maintains a prim sheen of face stubble that suggests he shaves daily but never with a razor that gets down to his skin. Hes a brilliant model, committed to a level of detailed bodily upkeep in every facet of his brawny beauty & perfectly sculpted features literally from head to toe, from individual strands of hair to the sinewy torso-abdominal array of symmetrical musculature that, if you merely drew in some street numbers, could double as a map of downtown Manhattan. Every time I see him I get the urge to purchase Armani cologne, put on Calvin Klein underwear, go to the gym, and chug some protein.
Just for fun, here is a sequential screenshot collage of the scene in which our white ninja hero is detained, interrogated, tortured, and apparently brought to orgasm by the drug cartel bad guys:
Also, at one point during SHADOW OF A TEAR there is actual, literal cockfighting:
27 fatalities, most of them of the Thai, Burmese, & Japanese variety. Maybe not quite enough to end the south Asian drug trade, which White Ninja very nearly accomplishes, but not bad for a 90 minute feature!
This is a martial arts movie, so most of these glorious mortal coil shufflings involve pre-mortem injuries before the fatal blow. And lots of guys get beat up without dying, of course. Florentine has a well deserved action cinema reputation for delivering the goods. I was not bored for a single second during SHADOW OF A TEAR.
How Bad Is It Really?
Opening scene is an intentionally cheesy black-&-white newsreel segment about the mysterious deadly art of ninja, so obviously Florentine & crew know they are making an unserious film. Despite featuring a vengeful Batman-esque protagonist, NINJA 2 is in fact an antidote to the Nolanization of action-adventure cinema, a film that celebrates its own absurdity without ever winking too hard at its audience and, more importantly, a film that celebrates the absurd athleticism of its stars by filming them in a way that allows us to see all the punches, kicks, and throat-piercing shurikens without any of that demonic shaky cam thats between destroying movies for the last 15 years. Florentine remains among the best, most dependable filmmakers for great, clean fight action. NINJA 2 is one of his best.
SHADOW OF A TEAR is great because it is not afraid to embrace the trappings of this ridiculous genre. For example, here we have a classic DEATH WISH 3 set-up: leave your woman alone for barely 2 minutes to run a mundane errand, and she will be immediately maimed & killed behind your back by unforgivable urban brutes. When the police inquire if youd like to help them pursue leads & solve the crime, stay quiet and prepare your own personal vengeance. Legal law enforcement is for suckers & pussies.
White Ninja borrows the spirit of another classic Charles Bronson film by inverting ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST’s most famous badass line in this rousing, ominous exchange:
The man who seeks revenge should dig two graves.
They’re gonna need a lot more than that.
Was There A Stupid Chief?
No. Scott Adkins plays White Ninja, not Detective John Ninja.
Stupid Political Content:
We have established that NINJA 2 is not afraid to homage (or rip off) certain action classics; its reach might exceed its grasp in that department, as part of its narrative strives for emulation of the gold standard for ridiculous action movies set at the Burmese border and painted bright red with the copious blood of mutilated Asian corpses — Sylvester Stallone’s masterpiece RAMBO, released 6 years ago this month.
SHADOW OF A TEAR even rips off RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985), what with the gay orgasm torture sequence and the scenario of an angry combat genius hunk of white meat using his superior mind and his bare hands to overcome betrayal and dominate a scary exotic Eastern land in order to essentially re-fight the Vietnam War (and win this time). Scott Adkins can get away with this because technically he is British and his character possesses a confused multinational heritage; he doesn’t know any better.
Also, in case the bad guys werent bad enough, their deaths are justified because they make & sell drugs. Somewhere, Nancy & Ronald Reagan smile upon this heroic film, the story of a new wave Paul Kersey who ignores the bureaucracy & legal standards of international travel/invasion and ignores the pussy ethos of any liberals who would demand just cause before crossing a foreign border for the purpose of killing the unprosecuted criminals who reside there. Drug-related crimes must be punished, or else our innocent families will be slaughtered by brown-skinned ruffians in our own homes. White Ninja loses a loved one to these fucking punks, so he goes directly to the source of the problem and gets results, vigilante style.
The crux of this revenge-murder mystery is this mysterious murder weapon:
a chintzy descendant of the flying guillotine by way of the spiked whip thing that ripped up Jesus Christ’s holy back in Mel Gibson’s torture porn masterwork; this item produces what passes for a few novelty deaths.
Florentine’s one directorial weakness is his restraint with regard to giving us a true Novelty Death. Seeing this weapon in action is not the most cinematically satisfying way to witness bloodshed & death, but the neat little butterfly marks it leaves on its victims throat are indicative of a return to artistry among the serial killers among us. It is nice to see someone who cares about his craft and wishes to leave a kind of visual flourish for the medical examiner to discover, thus brightening one’s day in the mortuary.
Novelty Wounds, however, abound in the Florentine filmography.
This is another subcategory of 80s Action that, tragically, has been ignored in the post-MARKED FOR DEATH era. SHADOW OF A TEAR does not go as far as the quadruple-solo killing of that Steven Seagal classic’s climax, but I appreciated the effort of White Ninja to impale one sub-boss’s femoral artery, then slice open his abdomen, then stab him in the heart, and then break the guys neck. It might happen too quickly to be considered a true Corpse Kill, and it lacks the gracefully comic nature of Seagal’s masterful over-overkill methods, but the effort here is commendable nonetheless.
Was There An Atomic Blast At The End?
Scott Adkins somehow got an overreaching, warmongering evil south Asian organization to surrender without the benefit of the discharge of the Enola Gay.
What You Learned:
Don’t kill Scott Adkins’s wife. You wouldn’t like him when you’ve widowed him.