In the midst of the Cold War a Norwegian diplomat, Arne Treholt, was convicted of treason against his country for selling secrets to the Soviet Union in the early ’80s. This is true. Not necessarily that he sold secrets as his conviction and twenty year prison term suggests, but just that he was convicted.
In 1992, after serving 8 years of his prison term, Treholt was released and to this day continues to plead his innocence regarding any treasonous activity. This is true.
In 2010, Norwegian filmmaker Thomas Malling made a film depicting the events precisely as they played out back in the 1980s in which Treholt was in fact the leader of a professionally trained black-ops group of ultra-human ninjas. This is true. Not necessarily that Treholt was a ninja mastermind, just that Malling made a film about Treholt being one.
‘Ninja’ is about as entertaining as you could imagine a Cold War film about a secret task force of supreme blond-haired ninjas being. Treholt isn’t just a ninja in the sense that he’s trained in stealth and assassination techniques. No, he’s a ninja in the sense that he can appear out of thin air and fully clothe a naked man simply by throwing them on him. Ninjas don’t have to conform to the rules of one leg at a time like the rest of us.
Much of the success of the film comes in the exaggerations of ninja ability and it uses almost every single fantastic element of the pop culture perception of what ninjas were actually able to do back in the 1980s when Sho Kosugi was killing ninjas. Because only a ninja can kill a ninja.
The storyline gets convoluted with a lot of names flying around all over the place with difficulty in stamping them onto a face (after all, all white people look alike), but, not intending to defend this shortcoming, when the film wants to be fun it is despite our losing track of who’s who and what they mean, if anything, to the story as a whole. It’s too forgiving to just say “who cares what he means to the story? He just knocked a guy over by rearranging furniture!” But it really does just about reach that point of accepting its confusing plot because it’s just fun to watch what components of ninjitsu mythology they’ll amplify next.
Norwegian Ninja is, in ways, the film that The Men Who Stare at Goats attempted to be; primary difference being that the events in ‘Goats’, though outlandish, aren’t as far from the truth as one would think whereas Norwegian Ninja has its self-awareness and parody stapled to its sleeve. The men aren’t just ninjas, they’re the fantasy versions that can transport elsewhere instantaneously in a cloud of smoke, repel unwanted forces away from their camp via the secret art of out-of-balance feng shui and even have a glowing light of enlightenment accompany their achievement of enlightenment as if they were Bruce Leroy realizing he is the one and only master. Simply put, none of the events depicted as fantastic actually happened nor are they anywhere near the truth; despite not actually knowing what the truth is this certainly is not it. Though, what’s the harm in taking a particularly ridiculous situation and making it more so for the sake of entertainment?