Fasten your seatbelts, folks, the Bad Movie of the Week is back with a vengeance! (And yes, clichéd phrases are crucial to the BMotW experience). This weekend’s visit from Will included three features, one each from the bountiful genres of martial arts, science fiction, and grindhouse. Today we look at our martial arts movie, a little number by the same team that would go on to make the similarly bad U.S. Seals:
Lethal Ninja (1993)
Plot: Despite the obvious criticisms to be made, the movie picks a plot and sticks to it. No, the plot doesn’t make any sense. But somehow you’re left feeling that it could have made sense, if you had just been taking slightly more drugs. Keanu Reeves’ low-budget cousin, Ross Kettle, plays a meditation teacher who learns his scientist wife has been kidnapped by thugs in a small African country. The thugs have been poisoning the water in the country — here’s where you might want to start taking the drugs — in order to grab power by playing off the fear of an ancient prediction by Nostradamus, and kidnap the attractive blonde scientist to force her to give them an even more dangerous microbe.
Edit: I forgot to mention that Ross can’t swoop in to save the day without first recruiting the help of his obligatory reluctant black martial-arts friend, who then proceeds to crack jokes about Africa the whole movie. But hey, he doesn’t die at the end, which is pretty incredible in itself.
Best quote: Bad delivery is of course essential to many movies in this genre. The older scientist who dies at the beginning didn’t die soon enough to spare us an abominably bad performance full of lame lines like “We’ve got no time for visitors, tell them to go away!” The hero’s scientist wife, Dominique, is even worse. She delivers every line with a stunted urgency that kills any dramatic tension. Finally, plenty of lines just come out of nowhere to advance the plot: “We better check out that old fort.” What? Why?
Most implausible moment: The world is full of brilliant women scientists and certainly even many blonde ones. Dominique is not one of them. Her characterization as a scientist starts and ends with a lab coat and the line (upon mixing a test tube of liquid with a water sample) “It’s not changing color!” She spends the rest of the movie wearing ridiculously high shorts and throwing off lame, defiant lines to express her unconvincing outrage at her captivity. Also, even if she is a pretty mediocre scientist, she should be able to escape from an unguarded hotel room full of windows when given days to do so, right?
That’s not really the most implausible part of the movie. But most of the implausibility is just a result of misplaced expectations on our part. For instance, the ninja swords visibly bounce off their victims — but that’s only silly if you expect the swords to be made of sharp steel, instead of ninja rubber. The enemy ninjas stand guard with their backs to entrances and remain oblivious to sound and movement in their immediate surroundings, but that’s because they’re listening to Whitney Houston on their ninja Walkmen. And so on.
Final score: 2 (6 is worst). This includes a half-point “Rollerskating Ninjas” bonus so take that into consideration — it’s a 2.5 otherwise. But still, this was a quite enjoyable movie.