28 February 2020 | Movie-Misfit
Underrated 80's Ninja Thriller!!
Only A Life Of Ninja (or Nin Za as the odd subtitle states) can get away with having an extended montage of outrageous ninja training sequences that involve a blend of sumo and judo (we'll call it sudo), scantly clad women mud wrestling, extreme torture, running across blocks of ice floating in water, and other mad scenarios!
In fact, its probably director Lee Tso Nam who could only get away with it...
The same man behind classics such as Kung Fu Wonder Child, The Leg Fighters, and Eagles Claws, has always had a keen eye for bringing something new and different to the screen, and A Life Of Ninja is one of his wildest. This was a favourite of mine in my early teens, wearing out my video tape from repeated viewings. This Vengeance release offers a Mandarin or English dub, and presents the film in a letterbox format which is great.
Unfortunately, its still got the jumpy video quality too!
There's a lot going on in the 1983 production, from battling ninja clans to assassinations; drug addicted sisters to forbidden romances. And while it has some very crazy moments, the film is actually shot quite well with some decent suspense and drama throughout. The strong main cast members also help make this crime thriller an even better watch. The fantastic Chen Kwan Tai, of Shaw Brothers fame, leads the way playing a ninjitsu trained martial arts teacher hired by the cops to help them solve some killings possibly done by ninjas. I've always been a big fan of Chen's and really enjoy seeing him in this early modern day role, as opposed to the usual traditional kung fu flick. He's a great screen fighter as well as a top actor, and gets some great fight scenes here alongside the amazing Yasuaki Kurata (who looks great as a ninja master) and Elsa Yeung from A Book Of Heroes.
While initially a crime thriller, the ninja scenes that weave throughout are fantastic, and more so when Kurata is on screen! The fights are fast and well choreographed, and show some great ninja action as well as hand to hand combat. The scene with the larger wrestling-type ninja man in briefs crushing people with cars and such, is brilliant. Watching it again after all these years gives me a great nostalgic feeling, and I still enjoyed it just as much as my teen years!
The action is delivered by Pang Gang, an actor and often assistant action director on many of the Lo Wei Jackie Chan movies as well as other classics such as Ninja In The Dragons Den, Snake Deadly Act and The Chinese Stuntman...
With sound-bites from classic Shaw Brothers movies and outrageous, non-stop ninja and martial arts action, including a fantastic end fight between Chen Kwan Tai and Yasuaki Kurata - you can't help but enjoy A Life Of Ninja.
Overall: Well made, old school fun that entertains in every way and one of my favourite Chen Kan Tai movies!