From the opening credits of New York Ninja, you already know this movie will be a ride. The campiest of heroes, the zaniest of villains, and the grimiest you’ve ever seen New York? Absolutely brilliant. Rarely does a movie ooze creativity and style in the manner New York Ninja does. You can feel the shoestring budget through the screen, but what they did with what they had was immaculate. New York Ninja‘s only and greatest tragedy is that we are just now getting this movie.
New York Ninja was originally filmed in 1984 and was abandoned and left to obscurity. Now in 2021, Vinegar Syndrome recovered the unedited reels and created a beautiful Frankenstein-esque monster. Without the original audio or credits to go off of, a completely new voiceover and score (from the impeccable Voyag3r) was necessary. All you need to know story-wise for New York Ninja is that it follows a vigilante ninja in New York City. I’m going to withhold details on the plot so you can venture into it with fresh eyes.
New York Ninja is an experience. An experience I’d best describe as a combination of The Warriors and Repo Man. Absolutely over the top, no holds barred, from beginning to end. If you are capable, watch this on the biggest and loudest screen you can get. Although I didn’t get to watch this in a theater, I was yelling and hollering in my apartment living room with joy. If you’re comfortable, get a group of friends to watch this. New York Ninja is the ultimate communal movie.
The strongest aspect of New York Ninja is its myth-making. With the exception of a few characters, no one knows who the New York Ninja is. A man that comes in and obliterates a group of armed men with only one foot is the kind of guy you do not want on your bad side. From the media to the children – the New York Ninja was a symbol of change and justice. Even the overabundance of “New York Ninja” merchandise shows the type of spell the ninja himself cast upon the city. A persona that is best comparable to a modern-day Robin Hood.
The action and effects done by John Liu are a sight to behold. Some of the stunts he does are on par with something from a Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, or Shaw Brothers movie. The variety of weapons used in addition to the martial arts added a much deeper value to each fight. The costume design for each group of villains was plentiful enough so no one foe looked the same. A different type of enemy with a different move set showed Liu’s strengths as a martial arts professional. In that he would fight each person differently so at no point does the movie feel stale.
A lot of praise should be directed at the new script and voice-over work. The new script written by director Kurtis M. Spieler was excellent, full stop. To reinterpret something as crazy as this while retaining the identity you can feel so tangibly is masterful. The new voice-over also worked insanely well. An excellent cast including Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Leon Isaac Kennedy, Ginger Lynn Allen, Michael Berryman, Linnea Quigley, Vince Murdocco, and Matt Mitler. One of my personal favorite aspects of the voiceover is the stark contrast between the dubbed lines and the actual words the actors mouthed. By doing so, it adds another level of charm as if it’s something directly out of Speed Racer.
Should you watch this without any insight into the film’s production, you would assume this came directly from the 1980’s. The level of delicacy that the people over at Vinegar Syndrome put into this is awe inspiring. There was a clear vision as to how this movie was to be put together, and the execution was a slam dunk. From Voyag3r’s respectful score to the stylized editing that harkens back to 1980’s camp and martial arts. If there are any other incomplete movies out there, Vinegar Syndrome should be the absolute number one pick to restore it.
It’s equally as exciting as it is sad that we are just now getting this movie. Who knows what level of esteem this movie could have held for young and budding film lovers back in the 1980’s. However, it being released today should only create a new generation of film lovers. This is a cult classic in the making and you should take any opportunity you can make to watch this. – Jacob Mauceri
RATING: 9 NY Ninja Throwing Stars Out Of 10
New York Ninja will be available for pre-order for 4K/UHD Blu-Ray with Vinegar Syndrome.