Movie News & Reviews

Details in 'Robot Ninja' make it an awful classic

Martial Arts Month has been a fun one for me. Last week I got tounleash my whip-fast sat sao technique on the Black Needle Gang, whowas upset I'd revealed the secret of their Ten Form Fist. Tragically,my life went rapidly downhill and hasn't yet recovered when I had towatch 1989's Robot Ninja, the subject of this month's Big AwfulFriday and capper to a feature I'll have to visit again as soon as Iregrow the eyes I lost in that fight.

Comic artist Michael Todd has taken his beloved creation "Robot Ninja"to TV, only to see it exploited and betrayed. After a run-in with alocal gang humiliates him further and leaves two innocents dead, he'shad all he can stand. Overnight, he suits up and turns himself into areal-life Robot Ninja, seeking to take down the gang before they cankill again.

Brace yourself for disappointment: Robot Ninja has neitherrobots nor ninjas, unless the Robot's Guild has relaxed theirstandards to the point where a dude in some shin guards and a metalvisor can join. It's also very, very bad. Opening with a titlesequence that looks like a Hypercard stack, it immediately sets thebar so low you'd need a metal detector to find it and never improvesfrom there.

Never have I appreciated professional actors more than thenot-so-professionals here. Reading their lines like they've been upall night injecting horse tranquilizers straight into their hearts,it's hard to imagine a sleepier set of performances.

Then again, you can't put on much of a show when your dialogue isdialogue so corny the state of Nebraska is suing for damages. You'veprobably never heard of writer J.R. Bookwalter (who also directed,produced, edited, and composed) because he's since been jailed forfelonious overuse of the word "man."

Best of all is the plot. As a hero, Todd is a tremendous failure. Histriumphant run consists of slashing up a few thugs, watching uselesslyas they kill their victims, then getting beaten down so badly by therest of the gang he has to resort to anatomically incorrect homesurgery. Steel plates: they're not the same as skin.

It's the little touches that cement this an awful classic, like theproduct placement shoved right in the camera's face, as if to provethis really was filmed in our universe and not imported from a farcrummier one. Robot Ninja's a tough one to track down, but ifyou love being reminded that you're wasting every hour of the onlylife you've got, this is as good as it gets.