Sunday, May 19, 2013

El Professore Movie Reviews: Ninja Thunderbolt

Director: Godfrey Ho, Ming Chin
Starring: Richard Harrison, Don Wong Tao, Yasuaki Kurata
* * * 1/2

Godfrey Ho (birth name Chi Kueng Ho); one of the most reviled names in Hong Kong cinema yet paradoxically one with a feverish cult following that few can match. His directorial credits are so numerous that it is difficult to come up with a full and accurate list. The reason for much of this confusion and notoriety is Ho's patented "cut and paste" technique. Ho will often shoot thirty-odd minutes of cheapo, yet outrageously hilarious footage (usually involving Ninja) and edit it (seemingly randomly) into an another, older (and usually unidentified) film, often leading to schizophrenic results. Most will either love his work or hate it for this very reason. There is no middle ground here. For me, I find that at their best, these can be wonderfully weird anomalies. Since I almost always seem to really enjoy Ho's goofy inserts, my recommendation (or not) of these films would rest on the hour or so of older footage used. If that footage (the bulk of each film) is entertaining, then we have a winner. Which brings us to the topic at hand, 'Ninja Thunderbolt'.

Full review after the break.

The plot... uh, yeah. Basically, it concerns bubble car driving Harry Wong's (Wong Tao alias Don Wong) twisty, tricky insurance fraud investigation, which leads him into deadly confrontations with an assassin (veteran villain, Yasuaki Kurata). That as near as I can figure out is what the original footage (directed by Ming Chin) is about. Ho then skillfully (cough!) inserts fave actor Richard Harrison (who at the time thought he was shooting footage for a single Godfrey film only to find himself inserted randomly into fifty or so!) into the proceedings as Harry's consultant... as well as an ex-leader of the Ninja Empire... which may or may not have anything to do with Harry's investigation.

Assuming you don't mind general incoherency, 'Ninja Thunderbolt' is a funky good time. Ho's inserts here are less frequent and less intrusive than usual which is just as well since the original film is an especially lively one. Both genre vets, Wong Tao and Japanese import Yasuaki Kurata are terrific and really give it their all in the fight scenes, which are sharply choreographed in rough and ready fashion. But beyond that is the wonderful weirdness of it. We have several awkwardly funny car chases, ninja on skis (!), ninja on skates(!!) and a pair of soft core sex scenes thrown in for good measure. This film looks like it would have been good, strange, wild fun even without Ho's ever awkward additions. Said additions merely provide icing on the confusing cake.

God bless you, Godfrey Ho...

(NSFW warning for the trailer below)

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