New York Ninja (1984/2021) 

Following his wife’s murder shortly having being told she was expecting, a grieving man turns to vigilante justice to make things right. 

Directed by John Liu and Kurtis Spieler, New York Ninja was filmed in 1984 and shelved without sound and without much to go with to finish it. Yet, a team gathered the footage, put it together, got a score, and a brand new voice cast to get this film in front of the audience it deserves. The results to this is a film that will appeal to fans of those old school badly dubbed martial arts films. For that crowd, it’s the crazy perfection they love with a touch more “WTF” in the story and the settings. Seeing something clearly shot in English but dubbed due to lost sound is something else at times. The fact that the dubbing is so on point for the film and its action is what makes this just about perfect. Of course, the writing has issues, the directing has issues, the performances are odd at times, continuity has some major hiccups, etc, but that’s all part of the charm of this film. 

The original cast here is clearly made up of more or less experienced actors including director John Liu in the title part. His work isn’t bad, but it’s also not the best put to film. Add to these performances that the audio had to be redone in studio by a difference voice cast and it adds a weird feeling to the whole thing that just makes it work. Playing the lead vocally is Don The Dragon Wilson who gives just the right performance for the acting on the screen, possibly being a bit more emotive than the visuals and so creating a sort of disconnect that makes it look like two different people. Here, his performance feels like it’s much better than the one on screen and it shows an interest in the film itself. Another regular of martial arts films making an appearance is Cynthia Rothrock as Janet Flores, the reporter on the New York Ninja’s tail. Giving the skills Rothrock brings to the screen normally, hearing her will make some miss her work as an actress and as a martial artist. That being said, she does well with the part at hand as it is. Other voices film fans will recognize include Michael Berryman, Linnea Quigley, and Ginger Lynn. 

Given that this was shot in 1984 and just now seeing the light of day in 2021, there are some issues on the visual side that are more than just it being a film that was worked on by two directors. This is not the point here. The film looks decent for a 1984 film and the editing goes along with the style of the time, making it look very much like a film for back then. The soundtrack, like the ADR, was done in 2021, so it’s something that sounds great while trying to keep the mood and tone of the film with a touch of nostalgia.  

New York Ninja is a fun 80s low budget action film with that added layer of the sound being done recently. The addition of action and horror stars as the voices for those whose words got lost is fun. This is definitely not a film to take too seriously, but it’s absolutely a fun one to catch with friends or with a crowd at a retro screening.