January 27, 2022

GENRE | 'New York Ninja' Fights Back the Streets

"The city needs hope."
John Liu Kurtis Spieler | New York Ninja | Vinegar Syndrome
Vinegar Syndrome
Originally filmed in 1984, starring and directed by Taiwanese martial artist John Liu, New York Ninja was shot haphazardly with little budget and barely any crew before being shelved then abandoned for thirty-seven years until re-director Kurtis Spieler reassembled the lost footage into a fun throwback of an exploitation B-movie.

Liu plays a Manhattanite (voiced over by Don Wilson) who becomes a sword-wielding vigilante clad all in white (sometimes on rollerskates) after his pregnant wife is brutally murdered after witnessing a kidnapping in broad daylight during the film's crazy opening sequence. He's then forced to seek justice himself by single-handedly cleaning up the streets overrun by a ruthless gang of violent criminals. You get the idea.

Entirely redubbed without any of the film's original sound available, there's such a genuine retro cult classic quality to the campy grindhouse design of the action flick captured on 35mm film. From the corny but earnest fight choreography to capturing strangely specific cultural obsessions like gymnastics, karate, swordplay, video cameras, and kidnapping, the lo-fi actioner transports you back to grimy mid-'80s New York sublimely.

It's clear how lovingly restored New York Ninja's reconstruction was handled from the purposeful dubbing that harkens back to classic 1980s Asian cinema and repackaged for English-speaking audiences to the meticulous adherence to the action genre aesthetics of its time. It's an amusing blast from the past.

New York Ninja screens at the Rio Theatre starting February 17th and is available on Blu-ray.

More | AIPT / FSR / Paste

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