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Commando Ninja Review

January 11, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
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Commando Ninja Review  

Commando Ninja Review

Eric Carlesi– John Hunter
Philippe Allier– Leeroy Hopkins
Stephane Asensio– Oskar Kowalsky
Olivier Dobremel– Oleg Kinsky
Themann Fagour– Curtis Jackson
Cecile Fargues– Lori Hunter
Thyra Hann Phonephet– Sensei Yin
Charlotte Poncin– Jenny Hunter-Adult
Anaelle Rincent– Jenny Hunter- Child

Directed by Benjamin Combes
Screenplay by Benjamin Combes

Distributed by Benjamin Combes

Runtime– 68 minutes

(All images from the Commando Ninja Facebook page)


Commando Ninja, written and directed by Benjamin Combes, is a slick, well-made, seemingly endless homage to the action movies of the 1980’s. Part sort of serious but wacked out action movie, part send-up with tongue planted firmly in cheek, Commando Ninja works best when it isn’t hitting the audience over the head with its many loud homages. When it’s being just a movie, Commando Ninja works and works well. Writer/director Combes clearly has the skills and chops to be a top notch, modern action movie director.

Commando Ninja stars Eric Carlesi as John Hunter, a badass Green Beret, Vietnam vet, and trained ninja who has to leave his quiet life of hanging out in the woods chopping wood and whatnot when his old boss Leeroy Hopkins (Philippe Allier) goes to see him and tell him that his daughter Jenny (Anaelle Rincent) has been kidnapped by the nefarious Oleg Kinsky (Olivier Dobremel), a central American dictator that controls an army of ninjas. Rescuing Jenny won’t be easy, as Kinsky also has a cyborg protecting him, a killer humanoid robot that looks like Hunter’s old ‘Nam buddy Kowalsky (Stephane Asensio), but Hunter is a commando and a ninja and dealt with some hairy shit back in the jungles of ‘Nam in 1968. Hunter will find Jenny, return her to safety, and destroy Kinsky’s entire criminal organization.

And so Hunter goes to Kinsky’s home/headquarters and starts killing bad guys.

Now, while all of that is going on, the movie flashes back to Vietnam in 1968, where we see Hunter and his Green Beret commando team in the jungles, fighting ninjas and dinosaurs and shit, we see Hunter become a prisoner of war, and we see Hunter become a ninja under the tutelage of Sensei Yin (Thyra Hann Phonephet), a Viet Cong that decides to train Hunter because… I’m not really sure.

So the story keeps going back and forth between 1968 and “modern day,” which is 1986, and we see direct homages to, among other movies, Commando, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Revenge of the Ninja, American Ninja, Predator, The Terminator, Highlander, Home Alone, The Road Warrior, and Smokey and the Bandit. And when I say we see direct homages I mean we see, in many instances, shot-for-shot rehashes of those movies. Just about all of them are well done and look good, especially the Commando and Revenge of the Ninja homages. You get lost in the action in these sequences and what’s put on screen is fun. However, when it’s obvious that what you’re watching is an homage and that’s it, the homage is distracting. Instead of being invested in the story you’re trying to figure out how many different movies are being referenced.

My favorite scene in the movie is the scene where Sensei Yin explains to Hunter what it means to be a commando ninja. It’s a direct reference to American Ninja, yes, but Thyra Hann Phonephet is so intense as Sensei Yin you get caught up in what he’s saying and you start to believe in it. You may not completely understand it, but, my God, you will believe in it anyway.

The movie goes off the rails at the very end, when time travel is injected into the story. The movie doesn’t really need it, as the post-apocalyptic world that Combes creates isn’t as interesting as the “1986” world he creates. It’s just too much on top of everything else that the movie throws at you. Now, I wouldn’t mind seeing Combes make a full on post-apocalyptic homage to The Road Warrior and movies like The Road Warrior. He can create a world and tell a story, even if it’s nominally someone else’s story. Hopefully, he gets a chance to do that at some point.

The same goes for a full on, “old school” action movie. Combes should do one of those, from beginning to end. I’d like to see him stage that big, hooha climactic fight between the hero and the main villain, like all good action movies do. If Commando Ninja is meant to be a calling card, it’s a good one. It should lead to more, though. Much more.

Eric Carlesi does a fine job as the movie’s hero John Hunter. He has the right buff look and looks credible during his fight and gun handling scenes. Philippe Allier is funny as Leeroy Hopkins, Hunter’s old friend with the cybernetic hand. Hos jokes are terrible, though. Ha. Stephane Asensio does a decent job as Oskar Kowalsky, the old war buddy turned cyborg killer. Olivier Dobremel is okay as the crime boss Oleg Kinsky, mostly because he doesn’t get the big moment he would have gotten in a more streamlined story. The man has charisma, though, so that’s cool.

Commando Ninja is a fun series of homages to various 1980’s movies that. It gets a little too wacky at the end, even for an homage, but it’s worth checking out. Just be aware that trying to figure out what 1980’s movies are being referenced may end up being a distraction for you, especially if you’re a fan of the movies in question. Writer/director Benjamin Combes clearly has the necessary technical chops to make a good looking action movie. Now, all we need to see him do is make something original. I look forward to that, whenever it happens.

See Commando Ninja. See it, see it, see it.


So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Potentially billions.

Explosions: Several.

Nudity?: Yes. It’s not bad.

Doobage: Soldiers walking through water, a racist joke, whistling, exploding arm, invisible ninjas, major machine gun hooey, Nintendo hooey, a hot babes on the beach montage, exercising, a woman in a towel, boobs, a booby-trapped room, shotgun duct taped to a desk chair, sai up the butt, giant wrench to the balls, kidnapping, tree cutting with a katana, a cybernetic hand, dinosaur attack, off screen man getting eaten by dinosaurs, a hilariously bad looking briefcase filled with “American money,” more racist jokes, laser hooey, exploding head, serious prisoner abuse, spitting, sword through the back, multiple topless women, knife through the eye, ball stabbing, bloody limb removal, LAW’s rocket hooey, M60 hooey, serious shotgun hooey with exploding head, grenade hooey, Uzi hooey, ninja star hooey, exploding ninja, machine gun through the face, intestines hooey, shooting a massive gun through a guy’s head, grenade down the pants, exploding helicopter, karate exercises, a training montage, double pole attack, fish catching via hand, sword catching, pony tail hooey, a TV antenna on the roof, metal pipe hooey, arm cutting, a bee pollinating a flower, decapitation, the post-apocalypse, a guy wearing tires as shoulder pads, machete through the head, double hand removal, arrow through the head, crossbow hooey, exploding punk, a fat mutant, Gatling gun hooey, and a video game that, if it were real, might have been fun to play back in the day.

Kim Richards?: Attempted.

Gratuitous: A Carolco Pictures opening logo homage, Vietnam 1968, a Predator heat vision homage, an Ahnold exercise video, a The Terminator homage, multiple 1980’s movie posters on the wall, a full The Terminator POV homage, a Commando homage, a Dillon/Dutch handshake, dinosaurs, a Revenge of the Ninja homage, Val Verde, a rotary phone, a Garfield phone, a Rambo: First Blood Part II putting clothes on homage, a Nintendo Power Glove, an American Ninja homage, a Highlander homage, the post-apocalypse, a The Road Warrior homage, and a video game homage.

Best lines: “Shut up, Hopkins!,” “Ninjas!,” “Your pepperoni, ma’am,” “Do you know why Americans don’t have hemorrhoids? Because all of the assholes live in Canada!,” “Did they give you bionic balls, too?,” “Fuck off, bastard!,” “Surprises? I love surprises!,” “Greetings from Smith and Wesson!,” “It will cost you an arm! And a leg!,” “Where’s my daughter, motherfucker?,” “Kill all these bastards until the last one, Dad!,” “Remember, my American disciple, only a commando ninja can kill another commando ninja!,” “I don’t like your new pajamas,” “There can be only one ninja!,” “Holy shit! The Democrats must have taken over!,” “I! Hate! Punks!,” and “Kowalsky! You fucking commie toaster!,”

The final score: review Good
The 411
Commando Ninja, written and directed by Benjamin Combes, is a slick, well-made, seemingly endless homage to the action movies of the 1980’s. Part sort of serious but wacked out action movie, part send-up with tongue planted firmly in cheek, Commando Ninja works best when it isn’t hitting the audience over the head with its many loud homages. When it’s being just a movie, Commando Ninja works and works well. I hope that we see more out of writer/director Combes, original material instead of stuff that’s an obvious, direct homage. And lay off the time travel, people. It’s confusing. Still, Commando Ninja is fun and is well worth checking out. It should still be available on YouTube.