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Alien vs. Ninja
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"You can't say it fails to deliver what it promises at all."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2010 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There are some projects that one would figure cause movie studio lawyers to start twitching as soon as they are announced, but it seems that they have been slow to smite lately. If Fox ever gets around to crushing the likes of "Alien vs Ninja", I hope they go easy on the Sushi Typhoon guys. It's not like anything about the movie indicates access to much cash, and the last act, at least, is demented sentai fun, which is more than can be said of the last few official "Alien (vs Predator)" films.

The title's pretty self-explanatory: An Iga clan raiding party - Yamata (Masanori Mimoto), Jinnai (Shuuji Kashiwabara), and Nezumi (Donpei Tsuchihira) - are returning from a mission when they see a fire in the sky. They're sent to investigate it with another party - including what is apparently the only girl in the clan, Rin (Mika Hijii), and a bunch of guys who mostly aren't going to live long enough to merit names - and find the expected: There is a boy whose entire village has been slaughtered, and a drooling seven-foot armor-plated killing machine. Since Yamata isn't exactly the type to back down from a fight, it's on.

AvN, as they even call it in the opening titles, is an entry in a series of low-budget action/gore movies created in large part for the export market, but even by those standards, it initially looks kind of half-baked. The CGI often crosses the line from "best we could afford" to "mock me, please". The palace Yamata and company are leaving as the film opens appears to be located next to a modern paved road, despite the film taking place in an earlier era. And no matter how many times Nezumi comments about being a senior/veteran/old, it doesn't make me believe Donpei Tsuchihira is anything but a guy in his mid-twenties with an anachronistic blond dye job - couldn't they at least shell out for a real middle-aged guy? All too often, the movie looks like it's nothing more than cheap and unambitious.

Fortunately, writer/director/editor Seiji Chiba eventually stops making attempts to play AvN straight. At the point when bad acting fatigue seems to be setting in and it becomes impossible to ignore that the alien's snout sort of resembles a dolphin more than anything obviously threatening, the fight scenes start to get more and more ridiculous. They've actually been fairly well-executed - Mimoto looks good and moves well with swords in his hands, and Chiba and his stunt team do a good job of making the ninja action extra-fast-moving but not so much so that it can't be followed. The last few action scenes bring some big-time silliness in to join the gore and fast pace, but in a way that doesn't make the characters look stupid.

It helps that we kind of like the characters. They're thin characters, but Mimoto, Kashiwabara, and Hijii are good at taking whatever silliness the movie throws at them - whether it be goofy leather costumes, getting doused in fake blood, or rubber baby aliens that aren't going to move without their help - and selling it without overdoing it.

The film as a whole manages that, by the end. "Alien vs Ninja" has a bit of a rough first half, but eventually embraces its insanity well enough that even audience members a little jaded where crazy Japanese movies are concerned can embrace it as well.

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originally posted: 07/13/10 01:51:25
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 New York Asian Film Festival For more in the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/28/10 Jonny It's predator, with ninjas, how cool is that! It's 90 minutes you won't regret 5 stars
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  DVD: 21-Feb-2012



Directed by
  Seiji Chiba

Written by

  Mika Hijii
  Shuuji Kashiwabara
  Ben Hiura
  Yűki Ogoe
  Masanori Mimoto
  Donpei Tsuchihira

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