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CANNES: NoZeanderthal Raves About TONGAN NINJA!!!

Hey folks, Harry here with a story of what sounds like unfortunate woe... Apparently there is a hilarious, wonderful film called TONGAN NINJA that was shot on DV that the audience at Cannes loved, but that distributors apparently didn't want to pick up because it was shot on DV. BAH! Let's see this thing. A movie that entertains an audience and makes them laugh is better than SCOOBY DOO! Let's see this sucker!

K. Now today I have quite a treat for all of you out there. Its a review of a movie that you didnt even know you wanted to see, until you wanted to see it. Now perhaps its because ive spent the last 2 weeks watching thoughtful films about self discovery and the israel-palestine war (which there have been alot of here), or maybe I just like stupid movies, but this one was plain fun. Of course Im talking about the kung fu, romantic comedy, musical...Tongan Ninja.

Let me say first, you may never see this film. I hope you get a chance, but I dont know. It was obviously shot on DV and though the crowd loved it, the entire theatre of would be buyers left talking about how it probably wouldnt get picked up. Here's hoping they are wrong.

The movie is about the Tongan Ninja, a P.I (thats pacific islander, not private investigator) His master sends him to the mainland to help out a freind whos restaurant is being bullied by the Syndicate. Tongan Ninja's (or TN for the rest of this review)father was eaten by a fish when he was young and now TN trains with his childhood enemy, Action Fighter. On the mainland, TN falls for the daughter of the restaurant owner but cant express those feelings. Then Mr. Big, the leader of the syndicate sends his goons, Knife Man (good with knives), Gun Man (good with guns), and Henchman (good with henches) to kill TN... all to know avail. Finally, Action Fighter shows up, climactic battle occures and all is well. Now you are probably asking yourself, why the hell is this guy telling me to watch this movie.

The Funny Damn you! The Funny! This movie is full of it. From the title sequence where an Elvis impersonator sings the entire opening song in a James Bond type sequence to the great dialouge. Take this for example.

-He's your father?

-And further more I am his son.

the syndicate is a huge fortress on the top of a mountain, run like a fortune 500 company, except all the doorman and secretaries are all ninjas, dressed like ninjas and such. and there is a great ninja bar scene. not quite the bar scene from Gremlins.. but funny.

The CGI (not counting the final fight scene) is surprisngly good. And the jokes throughout are just funny. I wont spoil them, becuase you just dont spoil humor. Thats wrong, like beating up someones grandma.

The bad. Otehr than the opening musical number, the other two...ugh. You are glad they end quickly. The film begins to slow down toward the end, but not too badly. The film suffers from Kung Pao syndrome. For those of you unfamiliar, its the idea that badly dubbing everyones lines will be hilarious. Luckily for the film, the dialouge is actually funny and clever. UNLIKE that of Kung Pao. So the dub is not nearly as annoying.

Other than that, not much else I can say. Try and find this movie. Bring in the funny.


But now theres another I must discuss of a different nature. Once Upon a Time in the Midlands. The new Robert Carlyle film. Set in the Midlands in Scotland, its the tale of two men fighting for the love of a woman. Carlyle plays Jimmy, the sleazy ex/criminal/dead beat dad who comes back wanting his love back. Then ( I think his name is Raif, he was in Notting Hill and Human Nature) plays Dek, the good natured current boyfriend. the set up is good and the characters are quirky enough to make the story interesting. The girl is honestly torn between the two. The man she currently loves and the asshole father of her daughter who suddenly wants to play daddy. Great acting all around. You'd think you had a good movie wouldnt you?

Nope. The script begins to die about halfway through. Plot points and characters suddenly dissapear never to be seen again. And the ending. Dear God the ending. I invested 2 hours of my life into this great struggle for love. Watching one man lose everything he cared for, and finally get the balls to fight for it. And the inevitable fight between Jimmy and Dek? Dek throws one punch and Jimmy gives in, leaving forever. The girl suddenly realizes Jimmy is bad because he listens to rock and roll very loud and drinks beer in a chair. In five minutes all the emotional struggle and dispair is repaired with no scars or bitterness. And then pink bunnies bounced around and everyone was friggen happy.

Yeah, the bunny thing didn't happen, but the rest did. And quite frankly it pissed me off. I was moved by the movie up until then. It took the cheap way out and I think the entire theatre was dissapointed. So if you get a chance to see this. WEll see it for the acting. But thats about it.

The festival is coming to an end around here, so my next review, And Now...Ladies and Gentleman, with Jeffery Irons. AND the closing ceremony. Peace to all those in the states.

I'm NoZeanderthal. And Im out.

Readers Talkback
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  • May 24, 2002, 7:26 a.m. CST

    The SCOTLAND?!

    by Matto72

    Since when is The Midlands in Scotland? If thats true then I am an Englishman in need of a kilt fast! Atlas can be bought from ;)

  • May 24, 2002, 9:50 a.m. CST

    SECOND, but this review is important, why?

    by aceattorney

    Who cares about dinky films no one will watch, when there's the MATRIX to cover?

  • May 24, 2002, 10:29 a.m. CST


    by RenoNevada2000

    Well, he's bringing it to our attention to show that there are actual good films out there that use Hong Kong films as inspiration to do something that is funny and entertaining and not as a springboard for a cheesy William Gibson rip off.

  • May 24, 2002, 11:02 a.m. CST

    Hong Kong inspired films

    by Wyrdy the Gerbil

    some of the these little films are total gems *Bangkok Dangerous* for instance,TN actually sounds like it may be fun

  • May 24, 2002, 3:28 p.m. CST

    Funny you say?

    by MagiCaspar

    You menion this sounds like it has "The funny". But, you didn't mention monkeys, sex drawves, or fat ADPi chicks. This is where "The Funny" is at. And you know this, man!

  • May 24, 2002, 4:34 p.m. CST

    Once Upon a Time in the Midlands

    by Ben fong Torres

    is from the director of a couple of earlier, little known english gems. Harry may only have the inclination or the room for reviews of guy ritchie's latest celebration of all things mockney, but check out '24/7' and 'a room for romeo brass'. The director is called called shane meadows, and along with lynne ramsey, is one of britain's most intelligent film makers.

  • May 24, 2002, 4:38 p.m. CST

    Oh, another thing, it's Rhys Ifans, who is a twat by all acc

    by Ben fong Torres

  • May 24, 2002, 9:41 p.m. CST

    Tongan Ninja worth seeing

    by Trader Groucho

    I saw "Tongan Ninja" at a screening in Santa Monica during AFM earlier this year. I was enticed by a very pretty Kiwi girl handing out official Tongan Ninja headbands (I still have mine around here somewhere) in front of the AMC theater on the Third Street Promenade (the pretty Kiwi was the blonde button-nose go-go dancer in the movie). I agree with the Neanderthal that the movie is funny, but I'll tell you why it won't get a theatrical release (aside from the DV issue). The bad dubbing was kinda funny early on, but is tiresome after more than an hour. As for the amount of humor in the movie, I found myself wishing about 65 minutes in that the filmmakers had condensed the entire affair into a 45 minute short, or found another silly subplot to add. Major detours from the main plotline are allowed in this genre. Just ask Austin Powers. What the movie did have going for it was a lead character who very much reflected the P.I. mentality and culture, and was funny to boot. The running gags about his virginity and cluelessness about women were actually charming. My recommendation would be to keep an eagle eye at your local video/DVD rental haunt for this one. It's definitely worth a home rental.