REVIEW: Death Code Ninja (1987)

deathcodeninja

Hong-kong-iconTaiwan-icon

1987, Filmark International

Directors:
Tommy Cheng
Chester Wong
Producer:
Tomas Tang
Writers:
Frank Lewis
Wen Chie-Yan
Cinematography:
Rick Harmon

Cast:
Mike Abbott (Smith)
John Wilford (The White Ninja)
Chiang Tao (Smith’s Goon)
Lu I-Chan (Joan)
Heung Wan-Pang (Patrick)
Ivan Tin (Chu)
Chuen Yuen (Ma)
Song Chang-Jiang (Alex)
Lu I-Fung (Shirley)

In the 1980’s, fans were treated to the “cut-and-paste” ninja films and this film combined a Taiwanese gangster film with newly shot ninja scenes. However, with a mishmash of minimal new scenes, the film would have been better off being released as just the original gangster film.

A rogue CIA agent, Smith, is in possession of a secret film and has created a brigade of ninja warriors to help protect the film at all costs. What he didn’t rely on was that the White Ninja, a mysterious warrior, has arrived and intends to get the film back for the good guys. However, when he is outnumbered, he fakes his death in order to prepare to trap Smith.

To complete the mission, Smith hires Joan and Patrick, to help grab a namelist for Sam. However, when Patrick decides to double-cross Smith in hopes to go straight, Patrick is imprisoned. When he is released years later, he learns he is a dad to Jimmy, who has been kidnapped when they learn Patrick has the namelist. When Jimmy is kidnapped by gangsters Chu and Ma, Patrick’s attempt at getting his son back results in a double cross from former friend Alex, who kills Patrick.

While the White Ninja prepares himself for revenge, Joan decides to get even for the death of both Patrick and Jimmy, who had died due to his diabetes. With the help of best friend Shirley, Joan begins her quest for revenge while a showdown between Smith and the mysterious White Ninja is inevitable.

For this Filmark production, director Tommy Cheng combined new scenes involving veteran Mike Abbott and newcomer John Wilford and combined them with the Taiwanese action drama The Imprisoned, a 1982 Chester Wong film about a couple of assassins who attempt to go straight after the husband’s imprisonment only for the wife to seek revenge after the ones hubby double-crossed get their own revenge. Speaking as a fan of this “cut-and-paste subgenre”, it would just made more sense to see the full version of The Imprisoned without the necessary new scenes.

The new scenes feature Mike Abbott as a rogue CIA agent who will do anything to protect an investment. While at times, the editing of certain scenes look impressive, other scenes just had that feel of “did that really need to happen”. Then again, we are talking about this cut and paste subgenre. In one scene, Abbott, in ninja form, takes on the likes of Hong Kong film vet Chiang Tao, who plays some sort of mercenary who not only refuses to help Smith, but mock him in the process.

As for John Wilford, as the White Ninja, his opening fight scene does involve him in some action only to hide out embarrassingly in his boxers while he uses a shadow as a way to fake his death. His training sequences in preparation to fight Smith are interspersed with the footage from The Imprisoned, which looks like a good film on its own. The training sequences only last between twenty and thirty seconds.

While The Imprisoned looks to be a pretty good film to enjoy on its own with Lu I-Chan doing great as a woman scorned after the death of her husband and son. It looks to be a story of redemption and revenge and it would be enjoyable to see the entire version of this film.

However, the craziest thing about the film is the final fight of the film. While Mike Abbott is all set in his yellow ninja garb, it is John Wilford who, like his character, mysteriously disappears. Yes, Wilford magically turns into ninja film veteran Stuart Onslow-Smith, who along with his Hong Kong stunt double, take over in the final reel against Abbott, who resorts to using both crossbows and a regular bow with explosive arrows.

As a film of the cut and paste ninja film genre, Death Code Ninja has some good points to it. However, it is safe to say that with a finale in which a different actor takes over and the use of a film that stands better on its own, this is one of the lesser efforts of this genre. Worth seeing just to see how insane this one could be.

WFG RATING: C-

VHS

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