Running time: 101 minutes
Language: Japanese with English subtitle
Directed by: Ten Shimoyama
Starring: Jo Odagiri, Nakama Yukie, Erika Sawajiri
Not the ninja movie you'd expect, SHINOBI is more like, “What If the X-MEN teamed up with BATMAN and took on the Justice League who were led by SPIDER-MAN, and the whole thing was directed by Michael Bay who had just gotten a total blood transfusion from Tim Burton and the script was written by Stan Lee?” It's a nuclear popcorn movie with a Romeo and Juliet core where ninjas don't leap and kill but shoot their fingers out, stretch, run faster than the Flash, steal your face, shoot lethal eye beams, and breathe poison clouds.
In the early Tokugawa era, ninjas are super-bad weapons of mass destruction and the two coolest ninja clans have been exiled to two remote mountain villages where they won't be able to fly around in public and freak everyone out. Gennosuke (screen idol, Jo Odagiri) lives in the Koga Clan's ninja village and their mortal enemies, the Iga Clan, live on the other side of the mountain. One day Gennosuke bumps into Iga gal, Oboro (Nakama Yukie) and they fall for each other. But their forbidden love comes to an abrupt halt when the Shogun, a paranoid recluse, becomes convinced that idle ninjas are the devil's playground and he vows to have a ninja-free kingdom ASAP. So he pits Iga against Koga and sits back to watch these troublesome killers wipe each other out. And wipe each other out they do. Each gifted with a different super-power, and trained from birth to hate each other for no good reason except it keeps them weak and divided, the ninjas are only too happy to shred each other into CGI blood mist, dancing on the Shogun's strings.
A major critical and commercial hit when it was released in Japan last year, SHINOBI is being prepped for a US release and one wonders if this heady brew of high melodrama, bizarre visuals and hyperactive action infused with a strong pop sensibility is a cocktail too strong for the Western stomach. As the manufactured war between ninja clans whips itself into a kill crazed frenzy, this flick darkens into real tragedy and its final scenes are like something from some lost EC comic book banned before it could corrupt innocent children. Truly, this is the ninjapocalypse.
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