After killing a man we can only assume is some kind of mob boss while in the middle of a golf game, a mysterious, unidentified ninja assassin (David Chung) in 'Ninja III: The Domination' tries to run from a sudden swarm of trigger-happy police officers. The ensuing battle between the high-kicking, sword-swinging killer and a series of cops attacking in full force is a frenzied, boisterous ten-minute spectacle of martial arts entertainment. Police cars fly through the air and crash into the pond; the ninja swings from a palm tree to kick a pair of motorcycle officers; and a barrage of bullets can't keep a skilled assassin down.
The entire sequence is pretty hilarious and ridiculously over the top, but shockingly, it's also fairly entertaining and engaging. Much of this is due to the level of outrageousness in a low-budget feature feigning to be a serious Hollywood blockbuster. In spite of the absurdity, especially in a script that blends martial arts action with supernatural horror elements with amusing comical results, several of the physical stunts are impressive enough to keep viewers involved. It's also one way of perfectly summing up this second sequel to a trilogy of movies loosely connected because of their ninja theme, as well as starring Shô Kosugi in some fashion or another.
The unintentional comedy expands soon after that spectacular beginning when the unknown ninja encounters the beautiful aerobics instructor Christie (Lucinda Dickey of 'Breakin''), working her day job as a utility-pole worker. From a short distance, Christie can see the ninja staggering across the desert. Running to aid the dying man, she is suddenly grabbed, and after uttering a few Japanese words, he hands over his word to the bewildered Christie, which we take as his passing the spirit of the ninja on to her. A sudden gust of ethereal wind blowing through Christie's perfectly feathered hairdo confirms this and makes it all seem like a benign experience. It's not until she meets her soon-to-be boyfriend Billy (Jordan Bennett) that we realize a more sinister and malevolent spirit has actually taken possession of her in order for the ninja to avenge his death.
From here, the story seems to go all over the place while wanting to incorporate a variety of themes into 90 minutes of non-stop action. A bizarre amalgamation of Asian mysticism in James Hong's brief cameo appearance lazily explains Christie's not so harrowing ordeal as possessed ninja assassin. There's also some silliness about how to properly dispose of a ninja, and a very short, unexplained flashback tries to add depth and purpose to Kosugi's character. Goofy yet colorful lighting accompanies a haunted flying sword that beckons Christie into revenge mode. And if we gave the movie any serious regard, we'd think part of the ninja training is a course of the proper application of eyeliner and the best form for making nonsensical grunts when doing absolutely nothing.
From director Sam Firstenberg, known for making a variety of low-budget B-pictures throughout the 80s and 90s, 'Ninja III: The Domination' is clearly a vehicle for Lucinda Dickey, meant to showcase her physical abilities along with her beauty. And if it's not, it really should be since the camera seems to really love her. Although she doesn't set the scenes on fire, Dickey is competent enough in the lead even though the character's vague issues with dating cops go unresolved. Speaking of which, the movie comes with a very strong vibe of anti-police hate that's also overlooked in favor for a breezy, quick to the punch finish. It's overall silly with a few problems in the narrative, but 'Ninja III' still manages to entertain, albeit most of that is unintentionally comical.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout! Factory brings 'Ninja III: The Domination' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack under the distributor's Scream Factory line. The Region A locked, BD25 disc is housed inside the normal blue case with a second DVD-5 disc on the opposing panel. At startup, the disc goes to a main menu selection on the left side of the screen with full-motion clips and music.
The evil ninja takes possession of Blu-ray with a surprisingly good 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Some age-related issues are present, of course, but they're easily forgiven considering the majority of the video is in excellent condition. A couple poorly-resolved scenes creep up and are noticeably softer than others. While the presentation is awash in natural grain, giving it a welcomed film-like appeal, there are several moments when it's considerably apparent, especially in dark, low-lit interiors. Nonetheless, the picture is highly-detailed with superb definition of individual hairs, threading in the clothes and in the fine lines of foliage. Skin tones are healthy and quite revealing with lifelike textures, and background information is consistently distinct.
Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the high-def transfer also displays outstanding contrast, allowing for great visibility of objects in the distance and during panoramic views of the Arizona desert. Black levels are strong, providing the image with a bit depth, and the smallest details in the darkest shadows remain plainly visible. Colors are bold and cleanly rendered, particularly in the primaries, giving the whole presentation an animated and energetic feel. All in all, the low-budget martial-arts actioner shocks with a first-rate HD picture.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack isn't quite as impressive as the video, but it gets the job done and is for the most part satisfying. Presented in 2.0 stereo, imaging feels broad with good balance between the channels, showing decent movement from one side of the screen to the other. But it's not the sort of directionality that's convincing and off-screen effects generally seem hollow. Random sounds, particularly in the musical score, are easily localized to the point of being somewhat distracting. Yet, while dynamic range isn't very extensive, the lossless mix exhibits plenty of rich clarity and distinction between the highs and mids. Although not earth-shattering, bass feels hearty and appropriate with a decent mid-level punch. And to top it all off, vocals are very well-prioritized and intelligible when overlooking the obvious ADR work, making it an enjoyable high-rez track for an affably entertaining 80s actioner.
From director Sam Firstenberg, 'Ninja III: The Domination' is clearly a vehicle for Lucinda Dickey, but the low-budget B-movie manages to entertain with wild martial arts action. Also starring Shô Kosugi, the movie comes with an engaging-enough plot involving ninjas, revenge-seeking ghosts, and haunted swords. The Blu-ray arrives with excellent picture quality and a serviceable audio presentation that gets the job done. Although supplemental features are on the weak side, the overall package will please fans and is worth a look for the curious.