If you’re at all a fan of older kung fu films, then the Shaw Brothers should pretty much be legends to you. The Shaw Brothers got started way back in 1924, setting up their own cinema. Led by Run Run and Runme Shaw, they amassed a large number of cinemas before venturing into producing their own films in the 1960s.
They went on to make hundreds of films, specializing in martial arts films and quickly becoming the leaders in that genre.
While Five Element Ninjas is certainly a less well known Shaw Brother’s title, their style and kung fu action are on full display.
After a difficult competition with a group of thugs, the Martial Artist Alliance returns to their headquarters to discover that their Master was poisoned during the proceedings. To make matters worse, they are issued a challenge by the mysterious Five Elements Formation, a group of ninjas trained in a Japanese martial art using metal, wood, water, fire and earth.
Since their master is ill and cannot fight, half the men are dispatched to fight the Five Element ninjas while the other half remain at the headquarters to protect their master. Unfortunately, the challenge is a massacre. The Five Elements formation is working with the local thugs to bring down the Martial Artist Alliance. With the help of a seductive undercover female ninja, the Five Elements group attacks the Martial Artist headquarters killing all but one. Tian Ho, one of the strongest fighters, manages to escape and begins training with a new group with vengeance on his mind.
Five Element Ninjas delivers exactly what it promises, plenty of kung fu action and not much talking. The plot is pretty basic, and typically revenge and honor-centered. While the pacing is pretty tight, the film drags on a little too long, due mainly to extended fight sequences that start to wear out their welcome. That said, there’s no shortage of action and plenty of fight choreography, replete with some over-the-top foley effects.
The film starts strong with some character introductions that seem pretty modern in spite of the film’s age. Acting is decent, though all that really matters is whether or not the cast can pull off the intricate stunt work, and in that charge they deliver in spades.
Despite it’s somewhat lengthy runtime, it packs in plenty of fights without getting bogged down in overcomplicated plot details and remains thoroughly enjoyable throughout. If kung fu movies are your cup of tea, you’ll find plenty to like about Five Element Ninjas.