Wu Tang vs. Ninja (1987)
Director: Wu Kuo Jen
Writers: Wu Kuo Jen
Starring: Jack Long, Tien-chi Cheng and Chi Ping Chang

The Plot: Our film today, starts out with a bang! A Shaolin student is challenged by the Wu Tang member known as White Abbot, and the two do battle in order to settle the argument of which school is more proficient in the martial arts. When White Abbot loses the fight, he decides to head back home and try to conquer a form of magic that makes him invincible to nearly any weapon or attack. He actually manages to do this with relative ease, and with his new abilities gathered he soon sets out back in search of the previous Shaolin fighter. Along the way, he decides that it might pay to have a little more insurance during this next fight. He then makes a deal with a roaming band of Japanese ninjas, who he promises to look after and help them become established within China. With both a firm grasp on the magic of invincibility as well as his new clan of Ninjas, White Abbot seems unstoppable. Unfortunately, the Shaolin member White Abbot is searching for has went into training to become a monk and is currently being hidden by the temple. Abbot White then decides that he will do whatever is necessary in order to have his revenge.

The Review
During the 1980s, if you wanted to sell your martial arts related film the greatest service you could do is throw the word “ninja” into the title. Ninjas were all the rage during our most excessive decade, and Hong Kong was just as fascinated with this newly-popular part of Japanese folk lore. Wu Tang vs. Ninja is another Taiwanese effort, that was likely shot on the cheap, which seems to have the intention of garnering worldwide distribution due to ninja fever being all the craze. My luck within the world of ninja films has been a bit hit or miss, to be honest. More often than not, these movies that feature the word “ninja” in their title usually have nothing to do with Japanese stealth fighting assassins. Similar to the Brucesploitation genre, manipulative marketing usually played a big part in the world of schlocky ninja movies. The title that we are discussing today at least makes good on its promise of ninja action, however, deciphering a true story out of it may prove to be a difficult piece of work. Some audiences may not find as much reason to complain, because after all we have Jack Long in a big fake white beard fighting alongside ninjas. That alone probably makes this movie worth a rental.

Wu Tang vs. Ninja, most likely due to poor handling by its American distributors, feels as if it starts off at a running speed. Normally, that sounds like a ideal way to begin any action film, but only when you can actually keep track of the plot. Honestly, we have no idea what is going on and it is nearly incoherent in how the film simply jumps straight into a fight scene after only one or two sentences are spoke aloud. The movie begins with a nonsensical jolt, and doesn’t relent with its “huh?” inspiring narrative for the entire movie. Continuing on with our introduction, after roughly a two minute fight sequence, we are then shown Jack Long, who lost the previously mentioned fight, put his hands on two young women while his body becomes completely red as if he were a mix between the Kool-Aid Man and The Incredible Hulk. Apparently turning red somehow makes him invincible and he can no longer be hurt by stabbing weapons. Now, I understand how the Boxer’s Rebellion and various other aspects of Chinese mythology could possibly fit into the concept of defying the laws of nature… but how and why is any of this going on? Five minutes into Wu Tang vs. Ninja, and the narrative is about as clear as Dr. Pepper in a dirty glass. For the next 85 minutes or so, we will learn only vague inclinations as to what this movie is supposed to be about. By the end, the only thing the audience will realize is that Abbot White was apparently the bad guy.

The plot simply seems to jump around without any form of hesitation. It becomes nearly impossible to keep up with everything that is going on. As soon as you think you have a grasp on just what is happening within the story, a zombie pops out from nowhere. Not only are we talking about a zombie, we are talking about a poisonous zombie who kills everything he touches as if his hands were made of acid. Does any of this make sense? No, not in the slightest. Nothing is every explained, but instead these bizarre facts-of-life are treated as trivial. This is actually a fun approach that gives the movie a very surreal feel, but as I have already pointed out, it is mostly just confusing. The movie does indeed almost become a surrealist film after the first twenty minutes. Characters are introduced, then dropped, and every other scene refuses to tie into the main storyline in any sort of meaningful way. Essentially the movie plays like watching a series of intercut scenes that have no running themes. The character of Abbot White remains fairly consistent throughout the picture, but even he is abandoned for a considerable time length. As for who our hero might be, there are only two characters who seem to fit the equation but they do not show up until the final thirty minutes of the movie.

The film could very well have some semblance of historical fact to it, despite all of it’s insanity. In the film, we are introduced to a nameless Emperor at one point who seems to use the Wu Dang school in order to battle against the powerful Shaolin, which actually leads to a Shaolin temple being burned to the ground. This is actually very similar to the events surrounding the Jiulianshan Shaolin Monastery being burned down during the Qing dynasty. It was during this period that Emporer Qianlong was accused of turning many Taoist Wu Dang students, who already suffered a bit of a inferiority complex against the Shaolin, against the temple and burning it down. However, this film definitely doesn’t look to deliver a very realistic depiction of any such events. After all, I highly doubt that there were any Japanese ninjas hired as assassins in order to help take down the Shaolin school. Still, it makes for a interesting piece of background history for a film that is already quite impossible to understand.

The Conclusion
“Impossible to understand” may be a bit of hyperbole, but it is not far off from the truth. Wu Tang vs. Ninja delivers in terms of its action, but it lacks severely when it comes to characters or narrative. When the lack of plot becomes so distracting that the audience isn’t even able to enjoy a kung fu film, you know there are serious problems. I give the movie a two out of five.