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Featured DVD Review: Norwegian Ninja

September 9th, 2011

Norwegian Ninja - Buy from Amazon

Norwegian Ninja is based on a true story. ... Loosely based. ... Very loosely based. Arne Treholt was a Norwegian politician and diplomat and in 1984 he was convicted of selling secrets to the KGB from 1978 till his arrest the year before. In 2006, a book was written based on the events, but instead imagined Arne Treholt not as a traitor, but as the head of a secret Ninja Force tasked with saving Norway from its enemies.

The Movie

We are first introduced to Norway's Ninja Force, a group of ninjas under the command of Arne Treholt. We see a few of their men, as well as their training facilities on their remote island, which is protected by Feng Shui. Recently, a Russian submarine ran aground near Sweden and everyone's been paranoid about further submarine activity. Because of this, Ninja Force has spent a lot of its time checking the fjords of Norway for submarines. In the latest mission, they were nearly killed by friendly fire.

This was not an accident. At the heart of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were fighting for control and influence over the world, NATO vs. the Warsaw Pact. NATO had its own secret army called Stay Behind, which was a group dedicated to staging terrorist attacks in countries that were on the fence with who to ally with. These attacks were blamed on communists, thus swaying public opinion. When Arne Treholt learns of this, he warns King Olag V, who tells him to begin Operation Saga Night.

But what is Operation Saga Night? That would be a spoiler.

Norwegian Ninja is a bizarre movie, to say the least. It has the aesthetics of a bad 1970s James Bond rip-off. It looks incredibly cheap at times. Actually, it was incredibly cheap, as it only cost $3 million to make. Of course, since it is supposed to look like a B-movie, complete with really obvious models, this is perfect. It has a rather convoluted plot that combines secret agent elements, mystical martial arts, conspiracy theories, and a healthy dose of politics filmed in a pseudo-documentary style. It even has a lot of archival footage of real news programs from 1984 to add a sense of realism to the show. This doesn't actually make the movie more realistic, nothing would make this movie even remotely realistic, but it does help emphasize the absurdities in the rest of the movie.

There are so many different elements crammed together that is it rather hard to describe and almost impossible to nail down its appeal. I think the easiest way to know if you will like this movie or not is to answer one question. Do you like MST3k? If so, you should also enjoy this movie. Norwegian Ninja doesn't quite have the energy I was hoping for, and I think something is lost in translation. I have no knowledge of this period of Norway's history. To be completely honest, I have almost no knowledge of any period of Norway's history. I think this adversely affected the film, but only a little bit.

Speaking of translation, the film is in Norwegian only with English subtitles, so keep that in mind. I do prefer subtitles to dubbing, but I know not everyone agrees, so the lack of an option could be problem for some.

The Extras

Extras start with three deleted scenes. There is also a section called Bonus Scenes, which is a collection of behind-the-scenes footage, a fake ad for action figures, outtakes, etc. The final menu selection is Featurettes, which includes interviews, featurettes on the special effects, and more. For an foreign language import, that's a pretty good selection.

The Verdict

Norwegian Ninja takes a real life event and turns it into an entertaining B-movie. It doesn't quite live up to its premise, but it is still worth checking out. The DVD has better than expected extras, and that lifts the overall value to the purchase level.

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