GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR is sleazy and dark. Likely directed by Godfrey Ho, this 1986 martial arts flick veers so messily from entertaining to downright disturbing that it’s hard to get a handle on it. Ho spares little in his depictions of sexual violence, dealing a corrosive hand to scenes that drag too long. In other spots, however, his nose for the comedic is prevalent.
Obviously looking for things like “consistency of tone” in a Ho movie is a fool’s errand, but GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR is jarring. That’s not to say it’s not fascinating or entertaining. After all, this is the ageless battle between red and golden ninjas for some sort of fantastical MacGuffin.
Queenie Yang stars as Sherri, a model who moonlights as a ninja. She’s trying to track down her father’s killers, which means she delves into the cruel underworld. She keeps meeting up with Michael (Donald Owen), another ninja who is on the lookout for a golden statue. And they both keep meeting up with those damn red ninjas.
Much of what accounts for the underworld in GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR involves a particularly squalid group of pimps. They lure young women into the trade and beat the living daylights out of their prey in a range of infuriating scenes. This is supervised by the red ninja (Morna Lee), a ruthless fighter in her own right.
When Ho swings his action to the ninja business, GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR is full of the overclocked fight scenes people’ve come to expect. The sound effects deliver plenty of whizzing, tinny impact for throwing stars and swords and the iridescent panoply of ninja goodies.
Yang’s Sherri is downright impressive as the self-described Death Fairy and she kicks all kinds of ass. Her tangles with Lee’s red ninja are striking, even if the “cinematography” seems to dodge most of the good stuff.
Now it’s a given that GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR isn’t going to be well-regarded for its cohesion or attention to detail or precision or any other such thing. But what’s interesting about Ho’s movie is his rejoinder to its own profuse sexual violence. When Sherri is raped, her response is…natural. And the moment is truthful, presented without derring-do or some sort of incredible escape.
It could be – and should be – contended that the aforementioned sequence feels awkward and out of place in GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR, but there’s something to be said for its inclusion and Yang’s reliability of character as she goes through the emotional impact of the act, shuns male comfort and finds her ultimate resolution.
That’s not to say that GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR is some sort of hefty yarn and that’s the problem. While comparable flicks have stumbled on the side of ridiculous, this picture feels like two different but difficult animals. And that makes it a bit hard to take as an entertaining if bad ninja movie.