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'Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear' review: Your ninja is in another castle

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Ninja II Shadow of a Tear


"Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear) is now available on demand, DVD, and Blu-ray (release date: December 31, 2013) from Millennium Entertainment.

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The original "Ninja" was released back in 2009 and while it wasn't very memorable it was extremely easy to digest at an easy to swallow 83 minutes and was noteworthy for the fact that director Isaac Florentine gave actor Scott Adkins one of his first projects to actually headline as the main actor rather than a secondary villain.

"Ninja" never tried to be anything it wasn't. The storyline may not have been very unique, but its fairly superb action sequences made it surprisingly worthwhile. "Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear" follows the same guidelines, but relocates from Japan to Thailand. Scott Adkins returns as Casey and is happily married to Namiko (Mika Hijii). As they're expecting their first child, Namiko is brutally murdered while Casey isn't home. Driven by revenge Casey finds himself traveling to Thailand after a former student at his dojo named Nakabara (Kane Kosugi) offers him a chance to train there.

The fight scenes give you quite a bit to appreciate in "Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear." Ross W. Clarkson and Tim Man should be thanked for that in addition to Florentine, Adkins, and any of the other co-stars in front of the camera. Clarkson is credited with the cinematography for the film, which is quite exceptional during every fight sequence. The camera perspective is in your face at all times, but never feels cramped. The actors move freely, but the camera seems to know just where to be to make you feel like you're right there in the middle of every hard thrown punch and fierce kick. Tim Man is the only fight choreographer in the credits and his back catalog includes "Kill 'em All" and "Ong-bak 2." Man likely helped contribute to the film's swift action, which certainly deserves plenty of accolades.

During his depressing journey while trying to uncover answers about his wife's death, Casey runs into a drug dealer in a club while searching for a man named Goro (Shun Sagata) whose reputation is felt throughout Thailand yet no one seems to know the whereabouts of or if he actually exists. The lighting in the club combined with the deranged look in the drug dealer's eyes makes the scene feel very hallucinogenic. Vithaya Pansringarm from "Only God Forgives" even appears as another crooked police officer who not only drinks tea while watching some poor soul get tortured but also speaks English.

The storyline and dialogue aren't quite as satisfying though. Casey buys a pendant for his wife as a gift with a symbol on it that means "happiness," but is then attacked by two men on the way home trying to steal said pendant. So Casey was nearly mugged for his happiness. Later, when Casey is having dinner with his wife, he gives her the pendant. When he's asked if he's going to eat his dinner, he says he's lost his appetite. His wife then rolls around on him and says, "Not me." Her pregnancy craving is chocolate seaweed, which is what Casey is trying to buy when everything goes wrong. The big villain in the film, Goro, is always seen drawing lotus flowers or playing chess. Maybe it's to try and show that he's strategic or methodical, but when the big showdown comes he's neither of those things.

Casey then marches around the city in dark clothes and a hoodie, which is very similar to Peter Parker's emo transformation in "Spider-Man 3." Casey also destroys the men at a rival dojo in "Chinese Connection" fashion. Casey kills every person he fights; usually very gruesomely. Rooting for the antihero is one thing, but he's shown running away every time leaving evidence like his blood and DNA at each crime scene. The dirty cops only show up because Casey is looking for Goro, but no honest cop is looking for him because he's murdering half of Thailand.

Casey is shown remembering things he wasn't there for like what his wife was doing right before she was killed. While the fight scenes are great and fast paced, some are noticeably sped up like the bar fight which is just unrealistically jammed on fast forward. The film is also called "Ninja II," so you expect ninjas to be involved in some capacity, but the film doesn't even feature any sort of ninja until the final 20 minutes or so. Scott Adkins is an incredibly impressive martial artist and even tries to the best of his abilities to be a decent actor, but he doesn't really pass as a ninja. Why Goro is in Burma surrounded by flammable barrels and propane is beyond any sort of rational explanation other than it gave Scott Adkins a reason to pose in slow-motion while everything exploded behind him like a scene straight out of a "Godzilla" film or an episode of "Power Rangers."

"Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear" isn't massively different from the first film, but it's not trying to be since nearly everyone from the first film is involved. The story is flawed, the dialogue is mediocre, and some of the acting is extremely stale, but the fight scenes are entertaining enough to make this sequel worthy of recommendation. Faulty in many ways, "Ninja II" still pounds its viewer into the ground with its fast paced and bone crunching action sequences.

Special features include a seven-minute featurette, Interviews with the cast and crew (12:36), and five minutes of Behind the Scenes.


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