One of the best (or maybe the worst) things about movies is that anybody can make one, and “Ninja Badass” is a pretty comprehensive example of micro-budget guerilla filmmaking. There are no elaborate sets, bloated numbers of behind-the-camera crew, fancy equipment, or famous actors, but this is a midnight horror project that was obviously made out of a true passion for the art form: or at least for the amusement of friends and family.
An homage to 80s B-movie action flicks, the film tells the story of Rex (Ryan Harrison), a man who must discover his inner ninja if he has any hope of rescuing a kidnapped woman who is set to be sacrificed. Through his sketchy martial arts training (which includes consuming massive amounts of egg rolls in order to gather the most potent ninja energy), Rex prepares to face off against the cowboy boot wearing super villain, Big Twitty (Darrell Francis).
It’s a buddy comedy / road trip / redemption story that plays like “Kill Bill” meets “Squidbillies.” It’s outlandish, gross, and guaranteed to offend at times, with exploding heads and cows, limbs ripped off, hearts eaten, puppies dropped in blenders, and testicles ripped from the body. It’s not gory and never looks real because the primitive effects are so crappy, but that’s the point.
The hilariously weird and atrocious acting is deliberate as well. Rex looks like a filthy, more unkempt version of Joe Dirt and talks like a redneck Bobcat Goldwaith, and much of the film’s humor comes from the awful one-liners or slight, intentional mispronunciation of words. Harrison even casts his own mother as Rex’s mom in the film, and her clunky, amateur performance fits in just fine. The cast of non-actors (or at least people who shouldn’t be actors) adds to the flavor of the film.
Director (and writer, producer, editor, lead actor, and VFX artist) Harrison puts his signature on every frame, and he knows exactly what he set out to achieve with this project. His style can be described as a little bit Gregg Araki mixed with John Waters and Tim and Eric. This is a movie where the finished product feels like what would happen if you and your friends got high in the backyard and decided to make a movie. Self-indulgent films like this usually start out fun but then become brutally painful to watch for the rest of us. It’s too long as it is, and is a lot to take in one sitting. I powered through, but the shtick became closet to torturous after about half an hour.
That’s not to say that the movie is awful (I mean it is, but it’s also not). Darryl DeLaney‘s grainy, candy-colored cinematography is perfect for the project, capturing a true grindhouse spirit. Harrison’s script is funny and shows a strong grasp of what cult film audiences want when it comes to their preferred form of entertainment.
“Ninja Badass” isn’t for everyone, but it delivers everything you’d ever want in a midnight horror movie, including violent decapitations, mass quantities of vomit, fireball bazooka explosions, sexy babes, unlikely heroes, and hillbilly ninjas. The film blends in-your-face anarchy with an unapologetically bonkers redneck energy, and it’s awful in the grandest way possible.