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Potential, but all good points drowned in cheap yawns!
As I mentioned in my review of Sakura Killers, this strange film appears to be a sequel of some sort to the earlier 80's martial arts film.
I say this is a strange film because, in light of all of it's glaring shortcomings, cheapness and overall lack of action.......I like it for some strange reason! Or at least I like the potential it could have had.
It seems that Sakura Killers was an Eastern/Western collaboration with directors Wang Yu and Dusty Nelson taking turns in the chair. White Phantom it would appear is just Nelson calling the shots, and it sort of shows.
Now to the bad points! It has to be said, the film looks awful. It's as if someone deliberately sought out the worst locations on the planet for a ninja film, with grimy streets, claustrophobic bland interior shots and always shot in dull weather. Believe me, if this is starting to sound cool, it's not, it's cheap. The acting is overall par, but in martial arts films people are hired for their look and ability, but the fight scenes are slow, boring and very sparce in the film and THAT'S when you notice the (I'm assuming!) lack of eastern co-operation in the production.
The good points are probably watching it and imagining the potential it could have had. I actually like the inclusion of dance sequences because choreography of any kind is good in my book, but he best bits are undoubtedly when Hanzo is talking to his father, a masked figure who's face we never see who is voiced amazingly sinister by (so the credits say!) veteran voice actor Greg Snegoff of Robotech fame, and interestingly this was the same voice of Sugiyama the ninja master in Sakura Killers. It get's interesting when this mysterious man talks about a renegade clan of white ninja reaching far back in history and you get niblets of maybe the Sakura family were not always evil and what they have become.
If this was the main basis for the story then it could have been onto a winner, but having an American wiseass as the White Ninja just doesn't do it for me. Where did he get the training, how did he meet the white clan? It's all just too full of unbelievable gaps. Willy should have been a sidekick to the White Phantom and kept the two characters separate with the ninja's identity a secret as the character of a drunk harp player is actually quite likable.
It's also nice to see a ninja film using traditional ninja weapons like the straight sword and climbing grips and a nice, but again brief kendo demonstration.
Grubby production, drawn out 'acting scenes' and clumsy choreography will send most people, even hardcore martial arts buffs running. But if you are into ninjas and love Sakura Killers then it's worth a look for curiosity.
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