Thursday, 30 April 2015

Bangkok Ninjas

I cannot remember when or where I picked this movie up, but I believe I received it for free.
And yet it looks so exciting
I don't normally bother talking about the covers, but this deserves a breakdown. For starters, none of those weapons appear in the movie. Not only is it a photoshop but it's a very bad one. Look at Ponytail's weapons.
I don't think that's how you're meant to hold those
He looks just as perplexed about them as I am. Did he duct tape them to the back of his hands so that he can still Tweet about it?

I should also mention that this entire movie is in French so there will be subtitles on the screenshots.
The movie opens with Triad boss Wong arriving at a party he's hosting. He happily greets his daughter but completely blanks his Japanese son-in-law.
I wonder if the racist Triad boss is the bad guy?
As he wanders around the party people talk about him, which allows us to learn all we need to know quickly and efficiently.
Then the camera pans up to reveal two ninjas climbing a nearby building.
Good thing they played all that Assassin's Creed
Not even two minutes into the movie and it's already delivered on its' title. Colour me impressed.
The ninjas sneak into the building, but apparently they weren't very good since three mooks immediately catch them.
"This wouldn't have happened if I'd worn my orange jumpsuit."
While one ninja steals a ruby dragon the other beats up the mooks.
Great to watch, terrible to screenshot
He's fighting unarmed against three men with swords. After knocking two of them unconscious and disarming the other he now has two swords against one unarmed guy.
And yet he still tries to fight. He is dumb.
After knocking out the remaining mook he takes his gun and prepares to finish him off.
If he had a gun, why did he even bother with the sword?
Before he shoots however, the female ninja stops him, insisting that they leave instead. As more mooks round the corner (These ones with guns) they jump out of the window.
A course of action any sane person would immediately regret
Being ninjas of course they land safely and escape, triggering the title sequence.
Should I have filed this under 'S'?
Then we smash cut to a rooftop in a city somewhere in time to see a whole load of parkour masters meeting up.
These guys
The guy in front is Leo, who has gathered the rest together, so I think he's the main character. He suggests a game so that everyone can get to know each other. Two teams, the team that gets the ball to an arbitrarily chosen rooftop wins.
This scene is not just a great action scene, but it also helps introduce the characters in subtle but distinct ways.
For example, Logan is practically fearless.
Or insane, your call
Kenjee has clearly been trained in some form of martial arts.
That or ballet, your call
Then we have Yaguy, who is a reckless fool.
And yes, he is smiling
Next up is Ponytail (His name never gets mentioned) who's practically able to dance around everyone else.
It's a great way to get to know our characters, especially since there are quite a few to keep track of.
Leo explains why he gathered them all together. He wants to open a gym in Bangkok to help children and he asks if the other are willing to help. For no real reason whatsoever, everyone agrees and they travel to their knew home.
They travel by magic rooftop
Back with the ninjas again as they're mysterious employer reveals himself.
Not really a surprise
Yeah, it was Kitano, Wong's son-in-law. he demands the dragon, but Tsu (The female ninja) refuses, saying it's where it belongs. Kitano is angry and prepares to kill her but Kien (The male ninja) defends her.
Kitano's smart enough to use a gun instead of a sword
Kitano's still uncertain, but one of Kien's lackeys offers up his pinky finger by way of sacrifice to appease him.
I don't think he truly understands what a pinky promise actually is
Kitano accepts the display of loyalty and leaves. In the car his assistant reminds him that because he married a non-Japanese woman he has no honour. Kitano says that he will claim Wong's empire for his own and by doing so reclaim his honour.
During which, the cameraman practically shoves the camera up Kitano's nose.
Considering he's one of the main villains, Kitano's rather sympathetic.
During the talk Misawa warns Kitano not to trust the ninjas because they're half-Chinese and betrayal comes easily to them.
Racism causes literally all of the problems in this movie.
Then we get to what is probably my favourite thing about this movie. Three of the gym group are trying to order chicken from a kart and are having difficulty when Kien's henchmen show up and shake the seller down for protection money.
Although that outfit is the true crime
He also insults Yaguy and steals some of his chicken, which almost starts a fight. 
When a man walks down the street in a hat like that, you know he's not afraid of anything
Kenjee and Logan hold Yaguy back. This movie has lots of little moments like this that don't advance the plot but do give us time to get to know the characters more. They each have their own personalities and motivations, which help us get to know them and sympathise with them.
For example, Necklace and Ponytail have a very short chat about Ponytail's wish to meet his Grandfather while he's in Bangkok.
"Do either of us even have names?"
Anyway, after a short scene where some kids show an interest in the gym we're back with the ninjas as they visit the grave of their French mother.
Wait, so are the ninjas the main characters?
They have a talk about their mother and how her blood has caused them nothing but pain. Tsu wants to live a life where they're not criminals, but Kien reckons that the Yakuza are the only people who offer them a chance.
It's a rather good scene and firmly sets them into the anti-hero camp.
The next morning Leo wakes up his friends for training, to which they all literally jump ate the chance.
Who needs stairs?
leo leads them to a building under construction, with one side completely covered by bamboo scaffolding. They seem reluctant at first, but Leo challenges them to a race and they all shoot off excited.
However, Kien and his badly-dressed friends are there and don't take to kindly to the group's presence and attempt to fight them off.
Turns out Kien's a bit of a racist jerk too
They have a really badass fight scene on the scaffolding, which again gives us some subtle glimpses into the character's personalities.
For example, Necklace screams like a girl.
Not something you'd expect from a guy this brawny
Logan and Kien fight for a little bit, but Logan's hopelessly outclassed and he gets real mad about it.
It's very frustrating trying to get good screenshots of this movie
As the fight reaches its' climax Leo gets surrounded by ninjas but is saved when Necklace kicks one of them off the scaffolding. Ponytail tries to save the poor guy as we hear an old guy start narrating about understanding violence.
Told you
He says that "To understand your violence, always put yourself in the shoes of the man you're fighting."
And so he has a falling dream. Whilst awake. A falling daydream?
Don't worry though, the ninja hits some bamboo and saves himself, nothing seriously hurt but his ego.
The police show up and everybody runs, except for Logan who still wants to settle things with Kien, but they're interrupted by Tsu. She persuades them to break it up and helps Logan evade the cops before warning him to leave.
Love at first fight?
Wait, so are these guys the main characters, Romeo and Juliet style?
After they return to the gym everyone is understandably angry at Leo for being a frikking moron.
"But their outfits were so stupid, I couldn't take them seriously."
Leo tries to say sorry and reckons that they should stand up to them, but everyone walks out instead. Well, except for Yaguy and Necklace, who decide to leave the next morning instead.
Kenjee and Logan stay at a hotel while Ponytail gets a boat ride.
Way to abandon your friends jerk
Night comes and we're treated to another little scene that fleshes out the characters. Turns out Kenjee's home village was attacked and many people died. When he trains he counts off the names of the dead so as to not forget them.
And this was the guy who smiled when he almost fell off a roof.
Necklace phones his young son and his wife, from whom he's separated. His son asks to make sure he's still wearing the charm he gave him for luck.
As a kid that was abandoned by his own father, this scene makes me get teary-eyed
Over in the hotel Logan and Kenjee have a little heart-to-heart of their own.
They also get attacked by the camera
Kenjee reveals that he left his home due to gang violence. He's seen enough violence and doesn't want any more.
Logan however can't get Tsu out of his mind. Kenjee advises him to forget about her, but within a minute, guess who shows up?
Santa Claus?
Logan spots her shadow on the wall and confronts her. He asks why she's there but she doesn't have a reason.
The next morning Wong is having a nice family dinner, playing with his son and insulting Kitano's heritage.
Just in case you forgot what a racist jerk he was.
Kitano is called away to the kitchen where he secretly meets Kien and orders him to kill Wong's son.
Just in case you forgot who the actual bad guy was.
Kien agrees and Kitano leaves.
Back to Logan and Kenjee where we learn that Tsu's still stalking Logan. Logan spots her and runs off, leaving Kenjee to wander Bangkok alone until he finds some people practicing Muay Thai. Without a word the master decides to train Kenjee.
It's a great moment of 'Show, don't tell'.
Back to the gym as Yaguy and Necklace prepare to leave. But Yaguy doesn't want to let wrongdoers get away with their crimes. Leo agrees to come with him in order to protect his gym. Overhearing this Necklace decides to come with.
And he'd just put those bags in the taxi
Despite wanting to see his son he's not willing to let his friends die. I like this guy.
I wish he had a name.
Logan finds Tsu and once again she can't explain why she's following him. She actually wants to leave with him but she doesn't want to leave her brother behind. Before she can say any of this though the ninjas show up and attack.
Don't you hate it when that happens?
Logan tries to intervene but they tell him to stay out of it.
He politely declines
Logan and Tsu escape the ninjas and she explains everything then tells him to wait while she deals with the problem.
In the meantime, Ponytail arrives at his destination.
To answer your question from earlier, yes. It is far.
Unfortunately he arrived too late to meet his Grandfather, who passed away. The monks tell him that despite his death he's still with them in spirit.
Presumably as a Force Ghost or something.
Later that night we see Kien planning to murder a small child.
His plans are subtle
He gets a phone call from Tsu who tells him not to do it. Kien's angry at her and isn't listening though.
Just as he's getting into the van Leo, Yaguy and Necklace show up to give them a bloody nose.
Yaguy thought Leo said "Let's fork these guys up"
Kien starts shooting at them, but he's a really, really bad shot. As the three good guys hide in the building a spark catches the oil that's leaking out of the van.
The van that's filled with explosives.
Kien and his lackeys are understandably a bit peeved about the loss of their van, especially since it means that they can't complete their mission. They start shooting at the heroes again, who wisely decide to hoof it.
Fortunately for them, all of the ninjas are terrible shots.
Eventually Kien gets a good shot at Necklace but for some reason he doesn't take it.
To be fair I'd struggle with the the idea of shooting at a man who screams as girly as he does
Eventually Kien and Necklace come face to face. Kien threatens to kill him but Necklace calls his bluff.
Did he miss the part where he was firing a sub-machinegun one-handed?
After the heroes escape the ninjas abandon Kien, telling him that both the Yakuza and Triads will be after them.
Meanwhile, Tsu was telling Wong about Kien's plan and who paid him to do it. Wong instructs Tsu to tell his daughter everything, then tells her that if she ever appears in Bangkok again she's a dead woman.
I guess a thank you is out of the question?
Misawa tells Kitano the news. Not only has his plan failed, but his wife has left him. Kitano thanks Misawa and tells him to go home, saying there's no reason for Misawa to suffer for his failures.
I think this guy may be the most sympathetic antagonist ever
Before he goes to commit Seppuku however, the ninjas show up and tell him that it was all Kien's fault. They let him think that Kien was in league with the Frenchmen in order to destroy him.
This makes no sense, especially since Kitano has no idea who these Frenchmen even are, but in his grief-stricken state he believes them, ordering his men to do something about it.
Tsu gets home to find the place abandoned. She hears a noise and gets attacked by ninjas.
And this is why I've ninja-proofed my house
She fights back but eventually gets captured. Meanwhile, Kenjee and Logan have met up on the roof of the gym. They also get attacked, but only by one ninja. And about 30 guys in suits.
And this is why ballet is the manliest type of dance
Again they fight back but get overwhelmed. Kenjee gets captured. Logan doesn't
Don't worry, he's got a healing factor, he'll be fine
Kitano congratulates the ninjas on finally pulling off a mission. He then has them killed for betraying their former master.
These guys just can't catch a break
The next morning we return to Ponytail, who's had a vision of Logan's death. because apparently he's a Jedi.
And his Grandfather really is a Force Ghost
Ponytail decides to go save his friends. Instead of telling him he isn't ready, his own Yoda actually approves of this course of action.
"And by that I mean you'll get yourself killed."
Then Yoda calls Ponytail "Son of the wind". Which presumably means that Ponytail was the main character all along.
Despite having the least screentime and saying about ten lines.
Wait, what?
Anyway, Kien returns home to find it a wreck. But he does find a sword, which he takes.
Tsu and Kenjee are being held captive. 
Kenjee's a tad upset at her
Kien calls Kitano, who says to meet him at the Industrial park at midday.
Then we cut back to Necklace finding Logan's dead body.
I am a little disappointed that he didn't scream "NOOOOOOO!"
Ponytail arrives back at the gym (Apparently, the route back is quicker than the route there). We then get a weird scene where Logan is in a forest walking towards a distant light but he gets called back by the Force Ghost.
And the lesson is that you should always trust old Chinese men who talk about their wind
The old guy morphs into Ponytail, who somehow brings Logan back to life.
But isn't that a Dark Side power?
Just as everyone's getting over the fact that Logan just spontaneously came back to life right in front of them, Kien shows up.
And no-one in the street was scared of the guy wandering around with a sword?
Yaguy immediately starts punching Kien, but Necklace stops him. Kien explains that the bad guys that have Kenjee also have Tsu. Logan immediately agrees to come with and the others follow suit, despite the very high risk of them dying. Even Necklace, who has the most to live for, agrees.
Just as they get there Kien tells them where the prisoners are and goes off to face Kitano.
Kitano brought a few friends too.
Just as Kien is getting himself surrounded his sister is escaping. using the oldest trick in the book.
I present to you the world's dumbest gaurd
Back at the standoff Kien somehow manages to take Kitano hostage.
These guys are also dumb
The rest of the guys find Tsu and Kenjee, who's understandably shocked to find Logan alive and well.
This was the only genuine joke in the entire movie
Back at the standoff (Again) things turn against Kitano (Again) when Wong shows up with an army of thugs.
And these guys know how to aim
Wong offers Kien a chance to join them if he kills Kitano.
Before Kien can make a choice however, his new friends show up to defend him.
Looks like they arrived in the nick of time. What does that make them? Big Damn Heroes. Ain't they just?
Kitano takes advantage of the distraction and steals Kien's sword, holding it to his throat.
But instead of killing Kien, he instead walks forward and commits Seppuku.
I'm actually sorry to see him die
His last words are "Tell my wife I love her."
Pay attention movie writers, this is how you make a villain sympathetic.
It's especially sad that it doesn't work. Wong and the other suited Triads leave, telling everyone who remains that the police are on their way, giving them all just enough time to die with honour.
Just in case you forgot that Wong is a colossal jerk
All of the Yakuza and Triad thugs put down their guns and draw their swords, getting ready to die in battle.
Of course, this does leave the heroes stranded between two armies, neither of which owes them any favours.
So we get treated to one last, kickass fight scene as they make their escape.
As they prepare to do so, Ponytail hears some more messages from his Grandfather.
The Force? He really is a Jedi.
What follows is a ten minute long fight scene where everybody gets to be awesome.
Except this guy
Just as it looks like everything's going well the fight goes into slow-mo and the music gets all sombre. The police show up and hold the heroes who've already escaped at gunpoint.
Whole bunch of guys fighting each other with swords and the cops pull guns on the two unarmed Black guys?
As more of the good guys reach safety it becomes increasingly clear that Kien's not going to make it.
Wait, is he holding the sword by the blade?
Just as everyone except Kien looks safe and the music swells he looks at his sister and her friends, then bows his head, knowing that he can die in peace.
Again, I'm actually sad to see him die.
Yeah, the moment doesn't last long though.
Well, that was unexpected
With a mad scream Necklace charges in and saves Kien, getting them both out of harm's way.
The police arrest the heroes but Kien manages to escape using the power of ignoring the crippling back injury.
And the power of not wanting to see his sister kiss a zombie
As the camera zooms in on their kiss for far too long we change locations to London, where not only is the whole gang back together, but Leo points across the Thames to Kien, whose standing on a rooftop being all Batmanesque.
There's no way this is really London, it's not raining
The camera zooms in on him, the music swells once more and we fade to black.

This movie was really good. The characters were well-rounded, each with their own backstory and motivations. The villains were both cruel and sympathetic, allowing you to understand their own motivations for what they did.
Plus there was some damn fine acting by Chau Belle Dinh (Who played Kien), I'm definitely going to be looking up some more of his stuff.

No movie is without its' faults though. At times the camera was zoomed in too much (especially with Logan). Some of the action scenes had too much editing, in particular the bamboo scaffolding scene. It got hard to tell who was doing what.
And I'm not sure if the Jedi stuff improved the movie at all, or if was just a Big-Lipped Alligator Sequence that was cut into shorter pieces.

As for next week, be sure to return for a mouse-sized mystery.

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