REVIEW: NINJA – SHADOW OF A TEAR / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: ISAAC FLORENTINE / SCREENPLAY: DAVID N. WHITE / STARRING: SCOTT ADKINS, KANE KOSUGI, MIKA HIJII, VITHAYA PANSRINGARM / RELEASED: MAY 12TH
Following 2009’s Ninja, this sequel sees Scott Adkins return as Casey Bowman. The plot of Shadow of a Tear, which is quickly established in the film’s first 10 minutes, is that Casey returns home to find his pregnant wife Namiko (the returning Hijii) murdered. With only the barbed wire marks on Namiko’s neck serving as any sort of clue as to who carried out this atrocity, Casey seeks the assistance of long-time friend Nakabara (Kosugi) in his quest for revenge. And that is literally it in terms of plot for the most part, as the film quickly transitions into fight sequence after fight sequence after fight sequence.
The thing is, Shadow of a Tear is a great action movie, with Adkins showing off his skills in a multitude of innovative, supremely choreographed battles. As his character of Bowman descends on his journey, there’s literally not a soul that he doesn’t roundhouse kick in the face. The story arc of the movie is almost an afterthought, as Shadow of a Tear slices through the bad guys with as much speed and accuracy as we’ve seen in many a year.
But whilst it's a belter of a martial arts-heavy action movie, one can’t help but think that it may get lost in the shuffle of direct-to-DVD movies that are out there, especially given its themes. Maybe as much of a hindrance as it is a help, Shadow of a Tear feels like a film that would be very much at home in the 1980s. As impressive as its fight scenes clearly are, the movie may have landed in the wrong decade. You can’t help but think if this was a film released in 1988 with Jean-Claude Van Damme in the lead then it would be quite the underground hit, much like Bloodsport or Kickboxer. In 2014, though, is there really a sizeable market for a movie like Shadow of a Tear? We firmly hope so.
Despite a plot devised purely as an excuse to see lots of fists and feet meet lots of faces, this is as good a martial arts film as we’ve seen since 2003’s Ong-bak. Many have championed the cause of Adkins as a modern day JCVD, and his mildly charismatic, clinically accurate turn as Casey Bowman does add further to these claims. Whether he can ever become a mainstream movie name in the way Norris, Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Lundgren or Van Damme did in previous decades remains to be seen, but he’s certainly doing his best.
The maximum action makes the minimal plot of Ninja – Shadow of a Tear massively enjoyable for those of an action movie leaning, with a back-to-basics boatload of brutality loaded into the fists of Adkins, an actor who will hopefully get to head up similarly effective actioners in the future.