New York Ninja Image

New York Ninja

By Josiah Teal | November 22, 2021

From the ashes of an unfinished 1984 martial arts film rises the completed and re-cut New York Ninja. Brought together by Vinegar Syndrome and director Kurtis Spieler, the film is a saga of a ninjutsu vigilante bringing justice to “gangs of drugged-up punks.” Originally directed and starring John Liu, Spieler brings to life a lost cult classic, primed for the midnight movie scene in all of its beautiful, campy martial arts glory.

John (John Liu) is a mild-mannered sound tech for a local news station. After a massive crime wave plagues the Big Apple, John’s wife is caught in the crossfire and killed by kidnappers. In the wake of her death, John seeks to bring his brand of throwing star justice to the street gangs of NYC. What ensues is a monument to Van Damme-inspired 1980s martial arts mayhem – complete with rescuing a kid, building a massive fanbase, and fighting the dreaded Plutonium killer (Michael Berryman).

“…a ninjutsu vigilante bringing justice to ‘gangs of drugged-up punks.'”

New York Ninja is literally a lost film finally found and unleashed to the world. It feels like something you would find in a random VHS bin or on “Flicks of Fury,” destined to become your new favorite. The action sequences throughout steer perfectly into the absurd nature of the story, featuring ridiculous rollerskate combat, helicopter explosions, and more spinning kicks than you can count. It’s pure late-night popcorn fun at its finest – like a lost sibling to Miami Connection, including the all-white ninja attire but minus the rock band.

Liu and Spieler painstakingly capture the essence of my two favorite genres: martial arts and cult. The film is a marriage of martial arts cinema and strange cult phenomenon, down to the film’s poster design. Sure, it has flaws as it is ridiculous and cheesy, yet that is precisely why it is brilliant. The unique brand of semi-self-aware insanity on display allows the film to be completely aware of its sheer entertainment value. This is a film that practically screams its midnight movie bonafides from frame one.

I loved New York Ninja. The film is rewatchable, quotable, and perfect for a Samurai Cop or Bruceploitation double-feature. Admittedly, the tonal shifts between ninja-centric fun and kidnapping women are rough. However, this does little to diminish the culty, campy enjoyment the picture boasts with zeal. By the end, I wanted an “I love New York Ninja” shirt like the ones in the film. Vinegar Syndrome has found/created a fantastic cult classic. The only regret is we never got the sequel promised in the credits. I only hope Vinegar Syndrome can give us L.A. Ninja.

New York Ninja (2021)

Directed and Written: John Liu, Kurtis Spieler

Starring: John Liu, Don “The Dragon” Williams, Linnea Quigley, Vinnie Murdoco, Leon Isaac Kennedy, Cynthia Rothrock, Matt Mitler, Ginger Lynn Allen, etc.

Movie score: 9.5/10

New York Ninja Image

"…pure late-night popcorn fun at its finest..."

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