Benjamin Combes’ crowdfunded project, Commando Ninja, is a satire based around the action movies from the 1980s, back during the peak of ultra-violence.
Movies like Robocop, Predator, Pray For Death, Die Hard, Above The Law and Bloodsport used to rule the box office without mercy. They featured big guns, big muscles, big boobs and plenty of gore. These days we sometimes get big guns, and maybe some awful digital blood effect, and maybe we’ll get some small boobs, but times have definitely changed and not for the better… not when it comes to ultra-violent action movies.
Nevertheless, Combes’ Commando Ninja attempts to combine the best of the ninja-schlock that was made famous in the 1980s by Sho Kosuki with flicks like Revenge of the Ninja and Enter The Ninja, and infuse it with cyberpunk adventures like Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Cyborg, while throwing in obvious nods to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris’ military-themed action flicks like Commando, Predator and Braddock: Missing In Action III.
You can check out the pitch video for Commando Ninja below.
I’m a little torn on this flick.
I love the ridiculous dubbing, and the fact that Combes was dedicated enough to use only practical squibbing effects. He used $5,000 of his own money to shoot the flick on location without green screens. He was obviously inspired by David Sandberg’s 1980’s revival parody of Kung Fury, but it’s obvious Commando Ninja seems to straddle the line between being an actual low-budget action flick and a satire of the genre.
The lead character, John, is played by the very committed looking Eric Carlesi, and he definitely fits the part of looking like a muscled-up badass on screen. I can’t knock the casting there.
In fact, if it wasn’t a pitch video on Kickstarter and we just saw some of the less over-the-top action beats, I might actually be inclined to think that this was a real action flick from the 1980s.
Combes combed through plenty of the action films from the era to lovingly craft Commando Ninja, complete with silly one-liners and a cliched story that will see John having a reason to get back into action.
A gratuitous boob shot makes its way into the trailer along with plenty of severed limbs and a disembowelment. Combes is also working with some of my personal favorite synthwave artists such as Ogre and Flash Arnold, but the flick will also feature an original score by Thomas Cappeau.
Now I mentioned that I was torn on this project, and the reason for that is that there are some elements that veer into pure comedic territory, much like Kung Fury.
I think in a way the comedy is to maintain a levity that keeps the film from feeling weighed down by the gratuity and grotesque nature of the violence. However, in the same way that the violence creates that satisfying feeling of reliving the era of excess from the 1980s, throwing in too much over-the-top comedy can also diminish from the earnestness of the film as well.
Finding a solid balance is what’s key for films like Commando Ninja to go from a simple flick you watch once and laugh at (or with) to a film you add to your library because it’s actually well made for what budget it has and the action is solid with just enough gravity to keep you entertained. A good example of the genre-homage being done right is Turbo Kid from François Simard and Anouk Whissell.
Turbo Kid managed to strike a perfect balance between comedy and action without diminishing the integrity of its story or characters by going too far one way or the other. And it was hard not to care about the characters by the end of the film. That’s going to be essential for Combes to nail down with Commando Ninja if he wants this to be more than just a weekend novelty for action-starved fans of 1980’s schlock.
Hopefully Combes can bring Commando Ninja to life. Despite my own criticisms, I still really want to see this film get funded and made because it’ll likely still beat out any other Hollywood summer blockbuster due out this year.
Combes is asking for an initial $18,000 to get the project wrapped up after shooting enough principal photography for 45 minutes worth of film. If you’re interested in seeing Commando Ninja get made feel free to visit the Kickstarter page.
(Thanks for the news tip Migi)