Director Isaac Florentine knows how to make solid action films. He proved that with 'Ninja' and again with this sequel titled 'Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear'. Florentine hasn't made a film that has received a wide release in theaters yet, but rather his films have run the indie film circuit and have scored good audiences on direct-to-Blu-ray home video. While this is not the most perfect of films, it's far better than most of the action films that tend to riddle the large theater chains throughout the year. The action is non-stop, and never has a silly over-the-top aspect to it. The characters and actors all do their job without giving us a performance full of cheese.
You don't need to really see the first 'Ninja' film to fully understand this sequel, as this one stands on its own but features some of the same key players. The main guy here is Casey Bowman (Scott Adkins) who was an American orphan adopted into a family that runs a dojo. He grew up to become a great fighter, and in the first film some evil people tried to destroy him and successfully destroyed his family.
Cut to several years later, where Casey has married his love interest from the first film and the two are expecting their first child. While he is on a quick errand at night to get his lovely wife some food, he comes back home to find her brutally murdered. Soon after the funeral, an old friend named Nakabara asks Casey to join his dojo and says he might have some information on who killed his wife. Casey accepts and heads to Myanmar to find his wife and unborn child's killer.
When people he comes in contact with end up murdered the same way his wife was done in, things spiral out of control quickly and this becomes an intense revenge flick with some solid twists and turns along the way. The success with 'Ninja II' does not lie with the story, as this plot has been done many times before, and nothing in this flick is really original as we've seen most of the things done better in another action movie before.
The greatness comes with the execution of each scene, as this tiny film with big dreams -- made on a fraction of the budget of major Hollywood action movies -- doesn't stray off into character tangents or sub-plots. It's straight to the point with no sugar coating. And Florentine knows the limits of his martial artist Bowman and what he can do. They don't rely on special effects or wires for this film, but rather, they let Bowman show off his amazing fighting skills in true form, while never trying to create a "bigger is better" scenario.
I can't wait to see Florentine get his big break in main stream Hollywood, because he knows how to make a solid action film. I hope his first film is a sequel to some big blockbuster action movie, then his next move is to make his own original action set pieces. He's going places, and 'Ninja II' is a step in that direction.
'Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The detail is very sharp with great, well-defined closeups of the actor's faces that show every blemish, wrinkle and scar. In addition, the backgrounds and props also have a great deal of detail too as we can see fine stitching in the costumes and imperfections in the sets.
Colors are very vibrant and pop off the screen quite nicely. The greens and blues particularly stand out. Every color is well saturated. The blacks run deep and inky with the skin tones coming off natural and smooth. There was a little motion blur here and there, but no other big compressions issues to speak of. This small little action film looks great.
This release also comes with an impressive Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio mix and just sounds great. I was surprised by how this little action film sounded like a big Hollywood release. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand with no evidence of pops, cracks, or hissing. The sound effects sound great and are well balanced, loud, and pack a punch.
The directionality here is also very good. In the bigger action scenes, the bass rumbles and the intensity and effects get louder, but never over does it. The ambient noises, especially in crowded areas pour though the rears nicely and provide a great atmosphere. The dynamic range is very wide and the LFE is well balanced. The score delivers the goods as well and never drowns out any dialogue or effects. Great audio track.
'Ninja II' was better than I thought it could ever be. Despite being a direct-to-video movie with a familiar storyline, the cast and crew have produced a fresh take on the revenge action movie genre without any boring filler. The video and audio presentations are top notch here and the few extras are worth watching. This is definitely worth checking out as it's one hell of an action movie. Worth a look.