Challenge of the Lady Ninja

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“Well, it’s never dull, at least…”

short0447Chinese woman Wong Siu-Wai (Yeung) is training in the secret arts of ninjitsu, and passes her final test, much to the chagrin of her master’s other star pupil. Immediately afterward, she gets news of her father’s death at the hands of evil collaborator and former fiance Lee Tong (Chen), who works with the Japanese occupying forces. Oh, yeah: did I forget to mention this takes place in World War 2? Because the movie did as well. Anyway, she returns to China and sets about recruiting other, similarly-skilled women, who will be able to help her take revenge. Only, her nemesis has his own minions, who aren’t short on martial arts abilities either, and it’s only through the mysterious help of a masked ally that she is able to avoid an early defeat. Of course, she perseveres, and along the way there are shocking revelations, gratuitous mud-wrestling and a few bars of music apparently lifted directly from Star Wars.

The film can’t decide whether it was to be empowering or exploitative. For every scene of the heroines standing up for themselves and making their own way in the world, there’s one where they are stripped down to their underwear for the flimsiest of reasons. This starts early on, when it appears one of Wong’s ninja skills is to transform from her standard red jump-suit (as shown on the right) into something which looks like a stripper version of Tinkerbell, resulting in all the men around her collapsing with lust. Or there’s the sequence where she fights Lee’s only female bodyguard, who evens the playing-field by emptying an industrial-sized vat of baby oil on it. Or that one of her recruits is a prostitute, whose sole skill is apparently turning men into drooling imbeciles, at the frequent drop of her dress. The virulent anti-Japanese/pro-Chinese tone also gets old, and is kinda odd, since this was a Taiwanese production, so I wouldn’t expect them to be quite so pro-mainland.

That said, the more traditional action is certainly copious and generally fairly well-staged: Yeung is doubled for the more acrobatic elements, but it’s not made hideously obvious, and is helped by the fact that she is doing the rest of the fighting herself, and decently too. The opponents provide an interesting selection, notably the Japanese guy (Robert Tai) with a scorpion tattooed on his head. The revelations mentioned above, do come out of nowhere, and things end so suddenly I had to rewind to try and figure out what the hell just happened: this resulted from the combination of crappy print quality, making the final fight look as if it takes place underground, and the final fight actually taking place underground. Incoherent, surreal and nonsensical? Guilty as charged, m’lud. I probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dir: Lee Tso Nam
Star: Elsa Yeung, Kam Yin Fie, Peng Kong, and Chen Kuan-Tai
a.k.a Never Kiss a Ninja, Chinese Super Ninjas 2

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