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Lethal Ninja

The Iga and Koga ninja are at each other's throats again, this time because Dr. Kikuchi, head of the Iga ninja, has developed a serum that cures everything, and an evil arch-villain named Brian (Waise Lee) wants it, and has the Koga kill Kikuchi to get it. Only trouble is, the serum is in a box that can only be opened by the "key" -- an unemployed, flute-playing street musician named Copy (Dayo Wong). Purple, red, and green-clad ninjas led by Hong Kong action veteran Eddy Ko hop about trying to save, kill, or kidnap Copy.

A low-budget Japanese/Hong Kong co-production of the kind we're likely to see less of in the near future, as B-list Hong Kong actors don't exactly attract any box office in Japan, and Japanese actors don't help a production to get released in Mainland China. Which is too bad, because kickboxing champ Masato and cute Hisako Shirata turn in pleasing performances. Waise Lee is suitably villainous, as long as you can stop laughing every time someone calls him Brian. The star is without a doubt Dayo Wong, though, who does a good job being a sort of realistic slacker thrown into a weird ninja world. He gets all the best jokes, and is completely rude in the politest manner possible.

About the level of a typical straight-to-video production, its not surprising it sat on the shelf for a while (the end credits list the copyright date as 2004). The most problematic element of the production is the music, by Kiyoshi Yoshikawa, who scored the film with slow, echoey, cut-rate Kitaro. This undermines the credibility of Dayo Wong's character -- are we supposed to think his original music is good, or not? Because holy crap, it is awful. But overall, LETHAL NINJA is an inoffensive Saturday-afteroon ninja film that maintains a certain camp charm throughout, and ends with a winning postscript.

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