New York Ninja (USA, 2021; Filmed in 1984)

Over three and a half decades after it was first filmed, but never completed, this martial arts film starring superkicking John Liu finally sees the light and it’s destined to get a following.

John works as a sound editor for a local TV station in New York City. When his wife Nita tells him she is pregnant, he is overjoyed. However, the joy is short-lived when Nita is killed trying to help another woman who is being kidnapped by some local goons. An upset John attempts to go to police, but they can’t do anything as they are currently in the midst of an investigation involving kidnapping and a prostitution ring.

John is more than a mild-mannered sound editor, but he is a martial artist who is skilled in Ninjitsu. He decides to fight crime wearing a white ninja outfit. As he fights crime, the police seem him as a vigilante who is breaking the law. The city residents see the newly named “New York Ninja” as a hero. As John continues to fight crime, he soon learns that his wife’s death is in connection with the prostitution ring, led by an elusive boss known as the Plutonium Killer, who because of his involvement in a scientific experiment, is allergic to light and only strikes at night.

This has got to be the best martial arts film story since the 2012 revival of the 1987 film Miami Connection. In 1984, Taiwanese martial artist and actor John Liu was set to make his U.S. debut on this film. The film was never completed and disappeared for over 30 years. Enter Kurtis Spieler, who after acquiring a collection for distributor Vintage Syndrome, came across all the original reels of the film. Spieler got permission to make the film and complete it himself. Using all of the footage, crafting his own script, hiring band Voyag3r to do the music and hiring genre actors to overdub the film in the vein of a classic kung fu film, this film is really a wild ride!

John Liu, fresh off his directing career with Zen Kwan Do Strikes in Paris, Ninja in the Claws of the CIA, and Dragon Blood, all within the span of two years, sporadically gets to showcase his martial arts skills. Compared to his previous efforts and his prolific career in the 1970s, the film’s action here is that akin to the American martial arts film of its original era. Thugs are waiting to get hit and mostly one on one with the background thugs waiting for their turn. Spieler does a good job in splicing to make a film about a ninja vigilante, on his quest for revenge, learning of the connection involving the major case of the city, a prostitution ring led by a killer who tends to let his own skin melt upon appearing in front of light. It is pretty disturbing but brings to mind a fresh new kind of villain for this genre.

But what is it that makes this so special? It’s all because of the excellent voice cast. Sadly, the actual cast aside from Liu and co-star Adrienne Meltzer, were unable to be identified. With the exception of adult star Sharon Mitchell in a deleted scene, the film’s notoriety is the voice cast, led by legendary kickboxer Don “The Dragon” Wilson as the voice of John, the New York Ninja. Cynthia Rothrock voices a female detective on the case with Penitentiary’s Leon Isaac Kennedy as her partner. Scream queen legend Linnea Quigley voices Meltzer’s character with former champion kickboxer and actor Vince Murdocco as her cameraman, Jack. The Mutilator’s Matt Mitler voices a thug while horror icon Michael Berryman voices the central villain known as The Plutonium Killer.

New York Ninja is the 2021 answer to Miami Connection. A story that had to be told and will be destined to gain a following. Kurtis Spieler did an excellent job splicing the footage to make an actual fun homage to the 1980s action film meshed with 1970s classic kung fu glory with the voice dubbing. If you haven’t seen it, then what are you waiting for?

WFG RATING: A

A Vinegar Syndrome Production. Directors: John Liu and Kurtis Spieler. Producers: Brad Henderson and Kurtis Spieler. Writers: John Liu and Kurtis Spieler. Cinematography: E. Lau and Steven Ning. Editing: Kurtis Spieler.

Cast: John Liu, Adrienne Meltzer; Voice Cast: Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Linnea Quigley, Cynthia Rothrock, Leon Isaac Kennedy, Matt Mitler, Vince Murdocco, Ginger Lynn Allen, Michael Berryman.

You can buy the film directly from Vinegar Syndrome in a special 2-disc Blu-Ray edition with a booklet about the history of the film. Go the Vinegar Syndrome website to get your copy today!

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