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August 24, 2011

Movie Review: Norwegian Ninja (2010)

The “Ninja” film was a pretty popular subgenre during the mid 1980’s. Something about the mysterious shuriken-chucking, sword-slashing men in black captivated action film audiences. Sho Koshugi (Pray For Death, Revenge of the Ninja) along with Michael Dudikoff (American Ninja) were probably the biggest names to put on the garb of the ancient Japanese assassins. Now, you can add the name Mads Ousdal to the mix of actors to play a ninja. He isn’t like any of the other ninjas that you’ve seen – he’s a Norwegian Ninja!

Buy Norwegian Ninja on DVD or Watch it Instantly

Ousdal plays real-life Cold War traitor, “Arne Treholt” in writer/director Thomas Cappalen Malling’s oddball spy/ninja/Cold War feature, Norwegian Ninja. Let me tell you folks, Norwegiean Ninja is unlike any ninja film I’ve ever seen. This is a good thing though, as it’s actually a very clever and humorous little film. Malling’s movie is a fictional account of Treholt where he’s a "master ninja" who trains and leads a group of ninjas known as the “Ninja Elite Forces” .

The director's usage of real news footage to intercut with the fictional events comes across seamless and are certainly a cool touch. It’s a difficult undertaking mixing both togethor and it's not always perfect, but the fact that he was successful doing this for most of the film is pretty impressive. I for one, had never heard of Arne Treholt or any of his misgivings so I found the story’s fictional and non-fictional plot to be refreshing, unique and most importantly, fun.

One fact that you'll learn after viewing the film and it's extra features is that in actuality Treholt wasn’t really a ninja. Malling’s alternate take on this figure and Ousdal’s portrayal make you think that though. In addition to the fine writing and spirited performances the FX also stand out - even in their simplicity. The digital FX and models used throughout the feature are purposely unconvincing. This is where some of the camp value and goofiness takes over. The jokes aren’t always hitting but when they do come there either completely ridiculous or fairly clever (often politically based) ribs. If you come into Norwegian Ninja expecting the blood and gore that drenched many previous ninja genre offerings, it isn’t here. The action though, is almost constant.

The extra features on the disc include several bonus and deleted scenes, featurettes and trailers. The best for me was the concept designs of the different models used as well as the other FX oriented extras. Malling does contribute to a Q&A where he covers his fascination with Treholt, ninjas and the Cold War's effect on Norway. He's a sarcastic and interesting fellow for sure so it makes the interview fun.

Norwegian Ninja might be one of the craziest films I've seen all year. It's truly one-of-kind of experience. Dark Sky's quality treatment and inclusion of some amusing extras makes this a big treat for any fan of oddball cinema. Recommended.

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