The secret warriors of feudal Japan were the Ninja. Sent on impossible missions, the Ninja were trained to work in shadows, gather information and defeat the enemy to build a world of peace. Red Shadow, Blue Shadow and Ask... more »a are neophyte ninjas under the tutelage of White Shadow. Their life is a series of perilous missions that entail intrigue, deception and intimidation.« less
"Hiroyuki Nakano first burst onto my radar with his brilliant Samurai film, "Samurai Fiction". With that film he attempted to give a shot of energy and originality to the genre, and the result was one of the best Samurai films in years.
It was only natural for Nakano to move on to another popular genre of Japanese film, and when I discovered that Nakano the great had decided to make a Ninja film, I was elated! Ninjas are perhaps the coolest aspect of the jidai-geki world, and also one of the most underutalized. I hoped for great humor, impressive action, and characters to remember.
And Red Shadow kind of delivers. First, it's very entertaining. If you enjoyed Samurai Fiction, then you should have a blast watching Red Shadow. But at the end of the film (and throughout it at various points) I just felt that a little something was missing. I still can't quite put my finger on it.
Stylistically, Red Shadow is at least on par with SF. The cinematography is beautiful (and in glorious color this time), and Nakano gives us some extremely cool crane shots. The humor is there, as is the respectively tongue-in-cheek tone, but Red Shadow takes a slight turn for the melodramatic in the middle, and I think that might be where it stumbles.
I won't go into details, as it would kind of spoil an important bit of the film, but the fun, light-hearted film that makes you feel as if you could jump, flip, and spin through the air suddenly stops and takes a more dramatic tone. It's a brief break, though, and a necessary one to set up the characters for the second half. The problem here is that the film becomes segmentmented into two parts that could very nearly be treated as seperate films. New characters come in, and while it doesn't take long to get to know them or see their importance to the continuing story, I couldn't shake the feeling that Red Shadow felt like two episodes of a film series.
Still, it's not that big of a flaw. There are other problems here: a slightly anti-climactic ending, a couple of plot holes, but nothing that really takes that much away from the film.
The characters aren't quite as interesting or charismatic as those in Samurai Fiction; that stops the film from being much more than entertainment.
This review has been pretty negative in tone, but it's really just from the high standard Nakano had set for himself. From another director, Red Shadow would be a great achievement. It's extremely stylish; the techno-rock soundtrack is very cool and somehow works well in context; the costumes look incredible; the special effects are subtle and convincing; the stunts and acrobatic feats a really awe-inspiring; the comedy suceeds almost without fail. It's certainly worth a look, and if you're prepared for the quirky comedy/romance/action tone, you should really enjoy Red Shadow.
The DVD: Media Blasters has done a spectacular job here. The transfer is beautiful, at least on par with any major studio release, and by far MB's strongest to date. I've yet to listen to the audio commentary, but the extras on the second disc are very interesting. There are mini-featurettes for some of the characters as well as a feature-length making of documentary that includes deleted scenes, interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and more. I especially enjoyed watching footage of how certain stunts were done (I was amazed and how little wires were used in this film! Most of the acrobatics are done by stunt men actually in the air doing AMAZING things with their body). It's a great DVD.
Recommended, but don't expect a brilliant or completely solid film. It's a very enjoyable light piece of Ninja entertainment."
One of the worst films ever made
Andrew J. Fong | philly | 09/20/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This movie was awful do not recommend buying this renting this or even looking at the cover. I hated every momment of this film. It is not funny, has a terrible soundtrack an is poorly acted. The story had potential three ninjas in a love triangle. But the sillyness of the whole film makes you not care at all about the characters. The main characters are more like the 3 stooges than 3 ninjas. The fighting was silly and weak. I liked the fighting in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie better. Overall if it were possible I would give this film negative stars"
WATCH THIS MOVIE WITH KIDS
R. Robinson | N.C. by way of TX | 03/06/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This movie was not funny although it tried desperately,(perhaps thats why they didnt advertise it as a comedy).I got about 20 minutes through it and stopped.Only watched further along into because my kids saw it on the shelf(even they got bored with it).Although i saw it only 2 months ago..it is a vague memory.Do not buy this film unless u can get it real really cheap.Finding a respectable ninja/shinobi movie is harder than finding a good lasagne or shoes for that matter.Oh well the search continues,Any ideas?"
Modern take on traditional Genre
Brian Watts | Atlanta, GA USA | 09/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The story centers around a triangle of Ninjas who have grown up and trained with eachother all their lives. If you are not familiar with Nakano's work then this movie will come as a shock for it is not your classic samurai movie. Instead Nakano breaks away from rigid tradition and does something different for a modern century. Though i will always enjoy classic japanese cinema, its great to see a young director do something new. Red Shadow features great cinematography, entertaining characters, and an intimate storyline. This one should definitely have a place on your shelf."
Has Its Moments, But Fails As A Parody!
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 10/01/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I did not find Hiroyuki Nakano's film "Red Shadow," all that appealing. I like parody in films, and while I believe his earlier film, "Samurai Fiction," is great, this film I found to be just silly, dull and boring. The cinematography in the film is great, and some may like this film, however, I found the film too childish. What comedy there is in the film felt like it did not belong there, with the slapstick style that just made the film seem a little too childish. When I purchased the film, I could not sit through the first half-hour. I had to watch it three times before I FINALLY watched it in its entirety. Don't get me wrong on this, I think parody and satire are great--especially if they are done right. Two Samurai films that come to mind are Nakano's "Samurai Fiction" and the film "Kill."
At first I thought that maybe I was just expecting too much after seeing "Samurai Fiction." But, I don't think so. While 'SF' pulled me right in, this film pushed me away. I found the film very difficult to watch, which is a telling sign that there is something wrong about it. That is not to say that others will not like the film. Now, the film is not your typical ninja flick--and I knew this when purchasing the film. I knew that this was supposed to be a farcical ninja film that did not take itself too seriously. But the ninja fight scenes were just too silly for me. Also, the films narrative is disjointed. The main problem for me was that the story and characters were just not that interesting.
The films narrative is basically about three assassins who go off to fight for their leader White Shadow, against other ninja clans. I liked the character Asuka (Kumiko Aso) who is one of the trained ninjas. They have all been childhood friends. When one of the ninja friends dies, the other two split up to avenge her death. I really liked the two AZUMI films [more serious in nature of course], but there was something lacking in this film that was a real turn off. It comes off as a little too campy for one. And as I wrote earlier, there is a lot of silliness to the film. As for the acting--forget it, it was bad. I know friends who really like this film, but for me, I found it tedious and boring. I do not recommend the film. If you must watch the film, rent it first. [Stars: 2.5]"