Starring: Elsa Yeung, Kam Yin Fie, Peng Kong, and Chen Kuan-Tai
Director: Tso Nam Lee
Rating: Four of Ten Stars
A young Chinese woman (Yeung), trained in the secret ways of Japanese ninja, returns home to China to fight against the Japanese occupiers during World War 2. When she realizes that her one-time betrothed (Kuan-Tai) has turned traitor and is working for the Japanese, she creates a fighting force of other female ninjas to put an end to his evil and to battle her old rival from the Ninja Academy (Kong).
"Challenge of the Lady Ninja" is one of those movies that is observably wretched, yet so very fun to watch. For example, while the film makes a big deal out of being set during World War 2, there is very little attempt to dress characters in period costumes or otherwise make the film look like it takes place in the 1940s. All the fashions, gear, and cars all date from the 1980s.
Then there's the ninja spell that lets a woman transform her bright red ninja suit into a bikini and lets her perform a version of the Dance of the Seven Veils that fills onlookers with distracting lust. Add to this the rampant hatred of Japanese that was so common in Chinese action films through at least the 1980s, and you have a movie that's one that should be reserved for an audience with very specific tastes... or just bad taste.
For all its quirks and faults, the film is a lot of fun. The ninja hi-jinx are as silly as anything you'll find in a Joseph Lai/Godfrey Ho production, but they are fully integrated into the film's story and generally make more sense. It's also action packed, with a fight or a chase breaking out every five or so minutes, and each one as energetic as the one that came before.
The main selling point with this film is cute ninja babes kicking butt, and that it delivers in spades. The extended final showdown between our red-clad ninja heroine and the film's main baddie is well worth waiting for.
If you like goofy martial arts pictures, and especially if you enjoyed a film like "Sister Street Fighter", "Challenge of the Lady Ninja" will brighten your day. It would be a great addition to any Girl Power- or martial arts-themed Bad Movie Night. Just turn your brain off before you turn the DVD player on.
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