The 80s was the decade of the ninja. Stephen K. Hayes wrote a column for Black Belt Magazine, "ninja" movies were everywhere, and on many young chests shirts showing a portrayal of a "ninja" in a karate flying side kick could be seen. Since most people had no idea what ninjutsu (sometimes rendered ninjitsu[sic]) was, some teachers of karate and tae kwon do rebranded and became instant ninja masters, much as today many schools proclaim to teach Mixed Martial Arts.
2009's Ninja shares some historical elements with many of the 1980's ninja movies, including students practicing karate, ritualized magic, and a Western leading character who ends up fighting a Japanese ninja who has gone to the dark side. (An early scene shows Casey (Scott Adkins) practicing in a white gi while Masazuka(Tsuyoshi Ihara) can be seen across from him working in all black. Symbolic? NOOOOO.) The "good" ninja does not use firearms, while the evil Asian assassin has his own special handgun and high technology armor and tools. At the same time, some of the terminology used in the movie is more authentic than the 80's offerings, and the ground rolls shown by the actors are impeccable. The actual fighting seems to be mostly karate, with the occasional Wu Shu thrown in for theatrics.
Don't watch this movie looking for Oscar-winning performances. Nor is this the movie if you're looking for a trashy B flick with lots of gratuitous skin. If you're in the mood for a movie that enjoyably combines the 80's US ninja flicks with standard elements from Japanese warrior films, Ninja may help with an enjoyable but not over-serious Friday night or Saturday afternoon. And there will be blood. 3/5 stars.