Recently I have had an uncontrollable urge to watch as many ninja movies as possible. I really couldn’t tell you why. Maybe it’s a midlife crisis, trying to re-live my youth or something. As a child I took these movies seriously, becoming completely immersed in their computer game faux-realism. But even as a young kid with questionable tastes, I would still have had a hard time immersing myself into the weird world of Russian Terminator, aka Russian Ninja.
aka: Russian Ninja
Denmark, 1989, Mats Helge
The most confusing aspect of this movie is its leading man and protagonist Mark Robinson (Frederick Offrein). Why, you ask? Just look at him…
This man is no Ninja, and certainly no Terminator. In fact, judging by his name, I’m not even sure he’s supposed to be Russian. Mark Robinson is a fashion photographer, with a shady, unexplained past as some sort of government assassin. He’s hired/blackmailed to come out of retirement and investigate a politician’s daughter. We’re never told why, and neither is he. Apparently he’s the best, although I seriously doubt this. However, within ten minutes he’s attacked by a ninja in his own home. Unbelievably, Robinson wins the fight and the ninja vanishes. It’s a strange scene, especially considering the jumper that Robinson is wearing throughout.
We cut to the politician’s daughter, Eve (Danish Playboy Playmate, Helle Michaelsen) and her friend/bodyguard Phil (Harley Melin).
Eve is being blackmailed to retrieve some “papers” from her politician father, in exchange for her kidnapped boyfriend’s safety. Played by Mats Huddén and Tina Ljung, the kidnappers’ motivations are never really explained, and for the first half of the film, this causes a lot of headaches. The exposition takes way too long, and with muddled motivations, I really couldn’t have cared less about what was going on.
Fortunately, the screen lights up whenever Frederick Offrein shows up and the second half of the movie is mostly just random scenes of him beating people up. Once he knows what’s going on, he approaches Eve to offer protection. Eve mistakes this for an assassination attempt and runs away, into the clutches of a ninja. Phil arrives in just his pants and fights Robinson.
Unbelievably, Robinson defeats Phil and wins his respect. Realising they’ve lost Eve, they become allies and vow to hunt her down while engaging in some absolutely atrocious dialogue.
It would be impossible to sit through exchanges like this normally, but there is a certain charm to the broken English that just makes it weirdly engaging. That’s kind of how it feels watching all of Russian Terminator. It’s utterly awful in almost every single way but its slow, almost dreamlike pace (even during its fight scenes) is strangely watchable. So little of it makes sense, and there are so many things going on that you just want to see how it ends. At times the cold, bleak reality of the locations can really be felt, and coupled with the deadpan delivery of the dialogue I sometimes felt like I was watching an Aki Kaurismaki movie, but with ninjas.
It’s not totally devoid of merit though. The two scenes that rip off The Terminator are worth a watch. The first is the opening scene where a group of terrorists, led by Tina Ljung, take down what looks like a laboratory. There is a shootout (strangely, these scientists are armed to the teeth) that’s strongly reminiscent of the police station takedown in The Terminator. There is also a later scene in a club that desperately tries to ape Tech Noir, but fails miserably.
Despite these scenes being kind of rubbish, it’s entertaining as we are treated to a solid half an hour of Robinson and Phil fighting an endless array of Russians in various nondescript locations. Climaxing in a mansion in the middle of nowhere, Robinson and Phil try to rescue Eve from the clutches of the kidnappers, whilst the ninja kills every other bad guy in sight. The ninja certainly has some moves, but his motivations are never explained. We know he isn’t one of the bad guys (eventually) but we never know whose side he’s on, what he’s after, or even what he’s achieved by the end of the movie. His presence is completely inconsequential and the performance by Adent Cederblad is absolutely awful. The guy might be able to jump a couple of walls and throw a ninja star, but he can’t deliver a single sentence without botching it up in some way.
However, he is involved in the movie’s best stunt.
Russian Terminator is a mess. It makes no sense. None of it. But strangely, it was watchable and I’ll put that down to the presence of Frederick Offrein and his beautiful mane of lightning white hair. Whenever he was on screen, he had my attention.
Overall, this movie was like a bad dream but between Offrein’s amazing hair and the atrocious line delivery it packs enough solid laughs for a late night session with friends.
Russian Terminator is available from Amazon as a German import double bill under the title Ninja Mission: Russian Terminator.