Ninja Busters~ 1984, Paul Kyriazi, USA


Upon first glance, Ninja Busters pretty much just looks like hollow attempt to cash in on the Miami Connection craze, by offering a similar lost film from the same era to the irony-crazed, Alamo Drafthouse flunkies of 2015, but the shocking truth is that Ninja Busters doesn’t actually have a whole hell of a lot in common with the synth-metal tinged, tai kwon do brawl fest that was Miami Connection. Ninja Busters is, in fact, a comedy! And it’s a good one, too!

And don’t get me wrong, I thought Miami Connection was hilarious, but that comedy was entirely accidental. The humor in Ninja Busters is intentional, and its off-putting just how successful this movie is at doing what it actually wants to do. We don’t see that a lot in the deep recesses of Psychotronic film! This is a highly entertaining, surprisingly charming little movie that kept catching me off guard by how hard it DIDN’T suck ass. Ninja Busters actually goes the distance.

THE PLOT~ Chic and Bernie are two bumbling, loveable con men who profess to be masters of the martial arts, but who actually get their ass kicked on the regular, and mostly just want to chase girls. Through happenstance, they enroll in some weird, California dojo (because they want to meet girls), and are slowly accepted by their peers over the course of three years. For a while, it’s all good for our boys, until they manage to piss off a local gangster, who sends his army of deadly ninja to take Chic and Bernie out. This movie is absolutely, 100%, a goofball comedy, but you might be surprised how fast things get fucking awesome in the third act.


So, what’s the deal here?

If we’re being fair, despite the fact that Ninja Busters has thus far failed to make waves quite the way that Miami Connection did when it was rediscovered, this is, in nearly every way possible, a much, much better film. I think it’s natural to compare the two, given the circumstances, but the superiority of Ninja Busters is pretty clear if you make an objective comparison. As fun as it is now, it makes sense that Miami Connection was panned upon its release, that’s a film which draws its considerable power from irony and irony alone, precisely because its actually just a shitty ninja film from the 1980’s. Ninja Busters, however, had even less of an opportunity to shine back in it’s day, and in truth, is was so much more deserving; if this flick had been available on VHS at my corner shop growing up, I would have happily watched it until the cassette fell apart. There’s something special about this movie, deep in its bones it’s just so wholesome and good natured, and I’d say the experience feels more akin to a wacky, upbeat comedy of the 1960’s than the glossy ass pop cinema that had become so much more common in 1984.

Our two leads, Bernie and Chic, have pretty strong chemistry together, as well, though they aren’t the best actors. Actually, much of the acting in Ninja Busters is predictably subpar, but it’s never enough to damage the film’s likability, which is considerable. Sid Campbell (who plays Chic, and who also co-wrote the picture along with William C. Martell) really carries the film, and its too bad we don’t see more of him in other movies. He’s kinda like what you’d have if Ernest P. Worrell had possessed at least a passable knowledge of the martial arts… And yes, that’s exactly as incredible as it sounds. Clearly, this is what my life has been missing all these years.

In a lot of ways, Ninja Busters feels less ambitious than Miami Connection, but that’s okay. The production is adequate, and it’s nice that the movie doesn’t overextend its reach and fall flat on its face like so many other movies from that decade did. Many of the sequences are legitimately funny, the dialogue is actually pretty good, and its remarkably easy to invest in the outcome of the story based on how likable our characters are. Really, likability is this film’s most precious resource, it really comes across that this movie was made with the best intentions; here is a movie that just wants you to laugh and have a good time, and unless you’re Oscar the damn Grouch, that’s probably exactly what you’ll do if you give Ninja Busters an hour and a half of your day.

It’s a shame that Campbell didn’t live to see this film finally be embraced by an audience the way it has since it’s recent rediscovery. Ninja Busters is a remarkable effort that deserved a lot better than it got, and in a world full of 80’s cinema that is celebrated ironically, it’s wonderful to find a film that can be enjoyed because of how good it is. It would be overkill to call Ninja Busters a masterpiece, but I can rest easily saying that I love this film, and I give it a strong recommendation.



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Miami Connection!!!

Miami Connection ~ 1987, Woo-Sang Park


Miami Connection is the story of Dragon Sound; just your typical 1980’s rock/synth pop/power metal band made up exclusively of orphans who are all black belts in Tae Kwon Do. The five members of Dragon Sound all live together in one modest house, like the damn Muppets, so that that way they can pal around and enjoy each others company every minute of every day. When they aren’t performing songs about battling ninjas or the power of friendship, Dragon Sound can be seen goofing off at the beach, grabbing a bite to eat, or locked for all eternity in a constant and brutal street fight with increasingly dangerous martial arts gangs throughout Miami’s neon lit, smoke shrouded Urban areas. Dragon Sound wants to spread the message of Peace, unity, and happiness for all mankind, and also they kill people on the regular.



THE PLOT- Despite being made of model citizens with nothing but goodwill in their ethnically diverse hearts, Dragon Sound has found themselves at the nexus of some shady shit. Fate has it out for them, and they seem totally unable to avoid constant tae kwon do related conflicts with people they barely know. Firstly, the bass player thinks it’s okay for him to date a girl he met in class. What? Oh, no, think again bass player, her brother is some kind of coke dealing street commando, and he does not approve- Time for a Tae Kwon Do battle.


Coke Dealing Street Commando- How else would you describe this gentleman?

Hey, Dragon Sound, you guys are the new house band at a local night club! Exciting, right? Wrong! Guess what; the old band is angry that they got shit canned. They demand satisfaction- via Tae Kwon Do battle, of course. What’s that, keyboard player? You bought a new suit? Tae Kwon Do battle. Even the old man who owns the restaurant Dragon Sound likes to go to ends up in a Tae Kwon Do battle. In Miami Connection, Tae Kwon Do battles are just the natural resolution of any and all events, positive or negative. Then the movie ends with a caption about the pursuit of peace and the elimination of violence. Asshole, I work in an office, don’t talk to me about eliminating violence from the world, I just saw you Katana blade a stranger to death in an fucking swamp.


This man is known for his unrivaled commitment to peace.

So, not to imply that Miami Connection isn’t just top to bottom ridiculous, but the movie’s heartiest chuckles come from its deadbeat dad subplot. As mentioned above, all of the members of Dragon Sound are apparently orphans, which really opens the door to a bad ass prequel trilogy where they all meet in a tae kwon do/rock and roll orphanage, but as the rest of the band comes to learn, their keyboard player has a dad, and has actually been trying to hunt him down for years. Watching a grown man try to force tears over his absentee father in a Miami pop band flop house is a special experience. They really, really try to tug the shit out of your heart strings in these scenes, but no one is really a good enough actor to pull it off, so the whole thing feels uncomfortable and hilarious. Also, like, more than half of these guys are shirtless in this scene, so that is a contributing factor. Shirtless men crying is never NOT weird.

Miami Connection (Richard Park, 1987)

They just look strung out, and coming down.

So, there’s really not much to the movie, beyond that. The acting is what you’d expect, sometimes decent, sometimes horrible, and never great. Some of the choreography is actually pretty good, and the movie looks pretty nice for its budget, especially the extravagant 80’s nightclub scenes. Damn! Why did nightclubs in 80’s movies kick ass so hard?! Were real nightclubs anywhere in the world ever really like that? Or is this just a beautiful, beautiful lie that Purple Rain wants us to believe? I want to believe it, Purple Rain. If only I could.


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