Ninja's Creed Review

Purely as a matter of discourse, it would be interesting to see if someone could cite a movie that's worse than this miserable catastrophe, that also boasts two bona fide Academy Award nominees on its cast list - even if they are such anonymous also-rans as Eric Roberts (1985's Runaway Train) and the late, great Pat Morita ('Wax on! Wax off!' 1984's The Karate Kid - seriously). An abominable, Frankenstein's monster of a movie, Ninja's Creed purports itself to be a psychological thriller, stitched together from ideas stolen from the likes of The Princess Diaries, both Terminator movies, and capped with a laughably bad twist lifted wholesale from...well, to give that away would stamp out any hint of enjoyment from a film that already teeters on the brink of being unwatchable.

Painted as one desperate man's fever dream recollection, Ninja's Creed comes to us in the form of a great deal of (unreliable?) narration from Adam Arthavan (Alexander Wraith), a warrior from an Asian dynasty under siege from the Skunji Empire. Dispatched to protect the last of the royal bloodline - an ordinary girl living in America with no knowledge of her true heritage - from a deadly assassin (WWE Diva Gail Kim), Adam is all that stands in the way of his kingdom's ultimate ruin. The problem is that when your opening reel marries dynastic Asian politics and all its rituals with - through the dodgiest of dodgy CGI - the modern day world of UN sanctions and fighter bombers, it becomes increasingly more difficult to disguise the ultimate destination.

It's not that writer/director Babar Ahmed, who made waves with his 2003 debut Genius, has ideas that are necessarily above his station, but they certainly are above his budget. Far more concerned with style than story, Ahmed undermines every sequence with intrusive jump cuts, heavy-handed mood lighting, and a tendency to let scenes drift off into nowhere long after the necessary (and more often, not even) beats have been exhausted. For what is supposedly a chase thriller, Ninja's Creed has all the momentum of a hibernating tortoise, driven by a script in which characters speak only in exposition as they move from one dimly lit interior to the next.

So much Asian-American cinema come under scrutiny for casting ass-kickers who simply can't act. The real crime here is that not only can Wraith and Kim not act, they can't really fight either, with Ahmed constantly forced to employ a barrage of camera trickery in a futile attempt to mask the fact that neither star possess the required skill set to grapple safely, and so the only solution was for them not to really grapple at all.

What jumps out most are the arbitrary stylistic touches that pepper the movie. It's understandable that a fledgling filmmaker would want to play with his toys a little, but do we really need a slow-motion dolly shot of a guy walking down the street carrying groceries? And why, for someone so pre-occupied with technique, does the director display such a flagrant disregard for the fundamentals? Why is the stock footage edited in so clumsily? Why is the ADR out of sync so badly and so often? Why are there so many stunt/effects heavy sequences when the budget clearly doesn't support them? A shining testament to the truth that it is far better to do something simple very well than it is to do something complicated very badly, Ninja's Creed is the cinematic equivalent of someone trying to paint their house a pretty color while it slowly sinks into the swamp beneath their feet.

DVD Bonus Features

A short behind-the-scenes featurette including interviews with all the principal cast, and an even shorter one that covers the orchestration of the score (one of the few elements of the movie that actually works). Also included are a smattering of deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer.

"Ninja's Creed" is on sale July 20, 2010 and is rated PG13. Action, Thriller. Written and directed by Babar Ahmed. Starring Alexander Wraith, Bobby Routh, Darren Kendrick, Eric Roberts, Gail Kim, James Yun, Jeannie Crist, Lalaine, Nicole Brown, Pat Morita.

Jul
20
2010
Neil Pedley • Associate Editor

Neil is a film school graduate from England now living in New York. In addition to JustPressPlay, Neil writes about for Uinterview.com as well as being a columist and weekly podcast host at IFC.com. His free time is spent acting out scenes from Predator in the woods behind his house, playing all the different parts himself.

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