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Norwegian Ninja (DVD Review)

Having Norwegian Ninja arrive for me to review was a surprise, because the only thing I’d really heard or seen of the film was one single trailer with English subtitles.  The trailer looked hilarious.  Why?  It’s in the title!  Norwegian Ninja!  How could I not be impressed with it?  The trailer looked like an extremely low budget flick with crappy production values.  I was so in!  Then the DVD copy arrived and I was…even more in?  Yep, Why So Blu is proud to present (wait for it) the DVD review of…NORWEGIAN NINJA!!!!  

 

 

 

Film 

Norwegian Ninja is the fictionalized account of an event that rocked Norway in 1984 that involved a man by the name of Arne Treholt who was convicted of high treason and espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union and Iraq.  He was a member of the Norwegian Labour Party, and obviously made some serious enemies.  In Norwegian Ninja, he is the leader of covert team of…Norwegian Ninjas.   This elite group of highly trained and undetectable assassins live on their own secret island where they cultivate their crops and raise their own livestock and are one with nature.  As one of the minor characters says earlier on around a camp fire, “If the Good Lord wanted us to be vegetarian then he would have made vegetables taste like meat.”

Yes, there are many more moments like that sprinkled in throughout Norwegian Ninja that really brought a smile to my face.  Of course, not all is as dandy as the funny dialogue.  Being that Norwegian Ninja is a fictionalized spoof of serious events that actually happened in Norwegian history, the filmmakers have taken great care in trying to translate that over into a film that has ninjas in it.  You would think that it would be an open and shut case, but it isn’t really.

There are many funny situations in Norwegian Ninja, but what screws up the flow of the project is that it is funny while being extremely deadpan serious.  TOO SERIOUS.  All of the characters take themselves way to serious to point of them not being self-aware that this is a film about Norwegian ninjas.  Even the title is a bit misleading in that there are no traditional ninjas in the film.  Yes, they do use traditional ninja weaponry, but the Norwegian operatives just disguise themselves in attire that lets them blend into their backgrounds.  Where are the ninja hoods?  Not here.

I firmly believe that if Norwegian Ninja would have been an incredible film if it wasn’t so serious.  After watching the trailer and thinking that the film would be a full on parody I was slightly let down by it trying to convey serious messages.  It took me through a loop.  Good thing the film is only 80 minutes long.  I do give props on the technical merits of the film.  The filmmakers utilized green screen, miniatures, etc., to give the film a certain bit of authenticity while making look a bit cheap.  During some of the shots of the action and scenery, you could totally tell how fake it looks, but it still worked, because that was the original intent.  Stock footage is also used heavily throughout the film, that is not blended in seamlessly, but still works.

The one film that Norwegian Ninja reminded me off was Black Dynamite, but that film worked on all fronts, because it was grounded in that alternate reality of being an exploitation film.  Norwegian Ninja is grounded too much into reality that it does not have room to breathe, because it takes itself too seriously to do so.  It’s Black Dynamite’s distant cousin, in that sense.

Video 

Norwegian Ninja is presented in standard definition 480p, 2.35:1 widescreen.  The picture presentation is purposely littered with anomalies, noise, diffusion, hot contrast levels, and every other video spec-adjective.  It is as it should be.  The filmmakers obviously intended it that way.  It gets a slightly above average grade, because I am always down with director’s intent and Norwegian Ninja is intended to look grindhouse-B-movie crappy.  This is a GOOD thing!

Audio 

Norwegian Ninja is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 kbps.  Yes, that is a severely low bit rate.  The even more good news is that this soundtrack BUMPS!  The synth music that repeats over and over is captured flawlessly on this DVD while dialogue in all its Norwegian glory is easily audible, as are the explosive onscreen action effects.  Norwegian Ninja has a lot going on during its brisk 80 minute running time.  It’s one of the better standard DVD audio tracks that I’ve heard in recent memory. 

Special Features 

Norwegian Ninja has some nice special features considering that the film really doesn’t merit them, because it’s not necessarily that type of film.  It’s cool to check them out, though, because the team behind Norwegian Ninja went all out!

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Bonus Scenes
  • Featurettes
  • Trailer
  • Teasers
  • TV Spots
  • Music Video

Final Thoughts

All seriousness aside, Norwegian Ninja is a valid exercise in low budget filmmaking.  While it doesn’t hit all of its marks, it does get props for being entertaining (when not being so serious), and the use of old school special effects brings warmth to my cold black heart.  I do think that Norwegian Ninja is worth a rental, but if you’re a fan of exploitation or B-movies in general, it may be right up your alley.

 

Order Norwegian Ninja on DVD!

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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