What if The Warriors (1979) was about ninja clans instead of street gangs? Well …
Ninja Apocalypse (2014) is that movie. Well, it’s more like The Warriors meets The Kouga Ninja Scrolls [a novel by Futaro Yamada that inspired the manga (2003-04) and anime (2005) Basilisk, and the feature film Shinobi: Heart Under Blade (2005)] and Fallout [the video game that inspired the excellent web series Fallout: Nuka Break]. Ninja Apocalypse is an awesomely entertaining low-budget martial arts mini-epic! The story is derivative, the acting isn’t quite Oscar-worthy, and the special effects aren’t exactly mind-blowing; but, the fight sequences are amazingly well-executed, exciting, and plentiful! In addition, there’s zombies and sexy ninja vixens!
German actor Christian Oliver [who played Swiss exchange student Brian Keller on the 2nd season (1994) of Saved by the Bell: The New Class (1993-2000)] stars with Filipino-Irish actress/stuntwoman Tara Macken [who doubled for Maggie Q on Nikita (2010), Alex Vega in Spy Kids 4D (2011), Aubrey Plaza in Life After Beth (2014), and many more], Albanian actress/model Antoinette Kalaj [who played a sexy mermaid in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)], and Japanese-American character actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa [who starred in one of my daughter’s favorite Disney originals Johnny Tsunami (1999) as well as many other movies]. Directed by Lloyd Lee Barnett, who is slated to write and direct Chics With Chainsaws! Check out the poster art here!
OK, be warned – there will be spoilers! Lots of ’em!
Ninja Apocalypse is set in a post-apocalyptic future, years after “the Great War.” The world is a wasteland and its people have divided themselves into rival clans of ninja warriors, each with their own secret weapon. Fumitaka (Tagawa), the Ninja Council master, sends a scroll out to each of the clan leaders to choose four of their finest and meet for a peace summit at the Warlord’s Temple, an old bunker that was once used as a fallout shelter.
Cage (Oliver) of the Lost Clan, who was dishonored, chooses his brother Surge (Les Brandt) as his fiercest, deaf and mute Sky (Isacc Singleton, Jr.) as his strongest, Trillion (Kaiwi Lyman-Mersereau) as his smartest, and Mar (Macken) as his “most talented.” The Lost Clan’s secret weapon is the ability to summon electrical energy called the “blue spark.” They are joined in the bunker, twenty floors under the surface, by the Southern Clan with their fire-throwers, the haunting Spectres of the Eastern Sea with their ability to vanish, the Mighty Desert Dragons with their razor-sharp teeth, and the Sirens (Kalaj) with “their deadly yet irresistible allure.”
Fumitaka declares a truce so that the clans can come together as one, bound by the Code of the Clan, to defeat the Uroku Kingdom, whom Fumitaka fears will attack soon. “Can you dig it?!” he shouts, demanding accord. Well, maybe not. However, as the clans chant Fumitaka’s name, a throwing star strikes his head, killing him. A witness claims he saw Cage throw the weapon, then two others claim they saw him, too. Now, Cage and his Lost Clan must make their way back to the surface while fighting the other clans who have been ordered by Hiroshi (Ernie Reyes Jr.), Fumitaka’s second and Cage’s former rival for their master’s good graces, to capture Cage alive. However, the other four Lost Clan delegates are fair game.
Sadly, Mar, the only female ninja of the Lost Clan delegates, is killed first, but only after a lengthy, brutal fight with Hiroshi’s guards. “Two on one?” she wonders, as they double-team her. “I guess the odds are even,” she quips, then proceeds to kick their asses with stylish martial arts and swordplay action! She is killed, after, by a Mighty Desert Dragon. Tara Macken, by the way, is fantastic as Mar! She looks a lot like Maggie Q which helps, I guess, if you’re stunt doubling as her! Check out Macken‘s stunt reel here. Next, check out this short film “choreographed and shot on the fly” during filming of The Hunger Games (in which Macken played a District 4 tribute) here. Finally, check out Macken‘s 2014 dramatic reel here.
Oh, and here’s a lovely pic of Macken in action (but, not in Ninja Apocalypse) …
Sky, the only black ninja in the Lost Clan delegates, is killed next. Sky is actually from the Southern Clan whose leader Becker (West Liang) doesn’t respect Cage or his clan because of his dishonor. Becker kicked Sky out of his clan because he’s deaf and mute (although he can sense movement through vibrations). Sky proves his allegiance to the Lost Clan by sacrificing himself to allow Cage, Surge and Trillion to escape from the 100th floor where they were attacked by zombies. Yeah, zombies. They find themselves on the 100th floor, by the way, after the elevator they’re on loses power and falls more than 80 floors. However, no one is injured. Why? Because they’re ninjas. Duh.
Trillion, the only blonde ninja of the Lost Clan delegates, is killed in this movie’s best sequence! Cage, Surge and Trillion make it back to the 20th floor where they encounter the Sirens who use their “irresistible allure” to seduce them in “the Warlord’s private apartment.” The Sirens, all played by Antoinette Kalaj, are like the Lizzies from The Warriors; and their seduction of Cage, Surge and Trillion is similar to the Lizzies’ seduction of Vermin, Cochise, and Rembrandt. However, the Sirens, unlike the Lizzies, have a secret secret weapon in addition to their sexy God-given talents! “I’m unarmed,” a Siren says, as she seductively caresses her curves. “You can check for yourself if you’d like,” she offers, as her sisters join her. The men check them, then begin to fall under their spell. Soon, the Sirens reveal their weapon – poisoned blades that extend from their fingertips! Trillion is killed but, to be fair, he would have died anyway since he was bitten twice by zombies! Cage and Surge engage the Sirens, and another lengthy, brutal fight ensues. I love when the Siren flips over like a pinwheel in slo-mo! So cool! And, then, when Surge thrusts that Siren’s own bladed fingers into her belly – awesome! Her moans sound like she’s having an orgasm!
“Leaving without saying goodbye? Now, that’s just rude!” the final Siren standing says as Cage and Surge run into an elevator. That Siren, angry that Cage threw poison in her face earlier, tells them that all the clans have been sent to kill everyone in their village. “Bye-bye, Lost Clan,” she grins, and then, a zombie jumps up, from behind her, sinking its teeth into her neck. Yeah, a zombie! Out of nowhere!! It’s like Det. Yojima (Show Aikawa) pulling out a rocket launcher from behind his back in the insane climax of Takashi Miike‘s Dead or Alive (1999)! The Siren pushes the zombie away, then lunges at Cage, who quickly kicks her back into the zombie’s grasp, and closes the doors! He and surge listen to her screams as the elevator goes up! Awesome!
I thought, at first, that the Sirens were vampires. When Cage throws the contents of his glass at the Siren and her face burns, I thought it was like holy water, but, since she wanted him to drink it, I realized it was probably just poison which is kind of, you know, their MO. But, they do look like vampires – sexy ninja vampires! The real confusion, however, lies in figuring out when the Sirens infected Surge with their poison! I didn’t see any of them do it. Yet, in the elevator, the poison begins to take hold in Surge’s leg. The scar-faced Siren threw ninja throwing knives at and hit both Cage and Surge, so it couldn’t be that otherwise Cage would have started to feel the effects of the poison as well. Did I miss something? Anyway …
Cage and Surge finally make it back to the surface and, after an intense sword fight with Becker whom Cage spares, they return to their village. After retrieving water for Surge, Cage finds himself thrusting a blade into Surge! “Show yourself!” he demands, and the other Cage reveals himself to be Hiroshi, Fumitaka’s second, whose secret weapon is deceit! Hiroshi was envious of Cage because, years earlier, Fumitaka favored him. Hiroshi made himself look like Cage in order to dishonor him in Fumitaka’s eyes. His plan worked. However, Fumitaka planned on making Cage his second at the peace summit because of his adherence to the Code as the leader of the Lost Clan. So, Hiroshi killed Fumitaka as Cage. And, since I’ve spoiled almost everything – Surge musters the strength and kills Hiroshi, saving his brother!
The twist is cool but not surprising if you’ve seen Shinobi: Heart Under Blade. You’ll figure it out right after the Siren helps Cage see himself throwing the ninja throwing star that kills Fumitaka, but you won’t know who. You’ll think it’s Becker, like I did. However, it doesn’t matter because the fun of Ninja Apocalypse is the exciting action sequences that are worth repeated viewings. I love this movie! So, watch the trailer here …
Ninja Apocalypse was panned by reviewers on Netflix. However, I think it’s because most people can’t appreciate low-budget movies for what they are. Hollywood has them brainwashed into thinking that all movies have to have mega-sized budgets and A-list stars. I prefer no-budget movies with no-name stars. I prefer this!
Entertainment Value: 4. Cuteness Factor: 5.
I watched Ninja Apocalypse last Thursday (January 8). Cleveland, OH, was slammed by a winter cold front and my daughter’s school was closed. I stayed home with her and we decided that we would watch a movie together. We chose Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) and, when I was checking to see if it was on Netflix, I found Ninja Apocalypse. I suggested a ninja double feature. Gaby agreed. Here’s what she had to say about Ninja Apocalypse: “That was the dumbest movie ever!” Yeah? What does she know? She’s eleven.
TMNT, by the way, was the first time that I enjoyed watching a Megan Fox movie. I didn’t like Transformers (2007), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), or Jennifer’s Body (2009), but, I liked TMNT, especially Fox as April O’Neil. My co-workers disagree. However, now, I believe that Megan Fox is the only actress who should play Cassie Hack if ever mainstream Hollywood should make a Hack/Slash movie adaptation!