Ninja Hunter (1984)

Directed by: James Wu
Written by: ?
Producer: Cheung Sin-Gung
Starring: Alexander Lou, Mark Lung, Jack Lung, William Yen, Chen Shan, Ricky Cheng & Chung Ling

The Abbott White (Jack Lung) of the Wudang aims to rule the martial world but is defeated by a student of Shaolin (Chang Shan). Trying to increase his power, he uses a ninja clan to kidnap young women so that he can drain their life essence. Thus giving him invincibility to strikes. Also using his ninja clan to make the Emperor go after the Shaolin Temple, they are all nearly killed but a couple of students escape. cue the training and revenge for a new breed of Shaolin fighters (including Alexander Lo Rei)...

An exceptional, dizzying and frenzied venture in ninja-action Taiwan-style, James Wu shows that The Super Ninja from the same year wasn't a fluke achievement. Distributed by Tomas Tang's Filmark internationally, there was no need to interfere with Wu's work by adding footage with Westerners because they could only dream of matching the intensity on display here. They may have been able to copy the basic martial arts movie structure but the clever aspect of Ninja Hunter connects to its own efficiency as well.

Not dragging itself and pace down by giving us spread out fights in favour of dopey comedy, the aim is instead to tell the basic in a snappy fashion and set off a whirlwind of action from frame one. Something Wu and action director Chu Ko manages to achieve. While devoid of comedy mostly, Ninja Hunter still knows the name of the game is fun and even exploitation so we see Jack Lung build up his powers using said women, have his face turn red as his power is enhanced and even gets his victims aroused the closer they come to having their life drained. There's no way to list martial arts action highlights as so much is put before us, so much is incredibly fast but not fast to the point of incoherency. It's simply a joy to watch everything from complex three section staff fights, wires used to depict enhance powers, actual jaw-dropping acrobatics, it all simply comes off as incredibly efficient but more importantly skilled and confident.

As a result, Ninja Hunter is tight, destined for rewatch and is a reference example even in 2017 of how to create a frenzied ride with a coherent, stylish touch. It's martial arts cinema according to the rule book but most could only complete within it partially and then felt the need to add sellable elements in a desperate manner. James Wu skips some of those and instead delivers THE sellable element and a classic piece of Taiwanese ninja-infused action in the process.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson