BUY IT AT AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO: Vivendi Entertainment
RATING: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
- Behind the Scenes clips
- Interviews with cast and crew
- Deleted scenes
Can a eighteen second YouTube sensation be successfully turned into a full length feature?
Mark Hicks, Marla Gibbs, James Black, Natascha Hopkins, Jim Kelly (barely)
Reggie Carson (Hicks) is just your average shlub trying to get through life without being handed too many hurdles. He has a girl he loves, a good job at the post office and a auntie (Gibbs) who is getting shaken down by an ex-pro kickboxer (Black) and his gang for protection money. Wait a minute. Who will stop this injustice? Well, no one…that is no one until Reggie finds a mysterious package at the post office that contains a pair of a magic nunchucks that help to turn him into an afro stylin’ street fightin’ karate master!
It all started with this:
Funny enough I suppose for something that lasts less than twenty seconds (and was unscripted), but for something eighty-eight minutes long, not so much. Afro Ninja: Destiny isn’t a bad movie, but it isn’t very good either. The feature, directed and starring Mark Hicks, a very highly regarded Hollywood stuntman who had the misfortune (or great fortune, depending how you look at it) of a not so great stunt making it onto YouTube, has the feeling of a glorified home movie. All the lead actors seem to be giving it their best to compensate for a budget that must have been in the dozens of dollars, and the movie gives off that “Let’s put on a Show!” feeling, which is heartwarming, but doesn’t mean shit when the final product lacks any real zip.
Hicks, as a director, offers up a very mixed bag. The karate fights are done well (Hicks choreographed them himself) and the editing in those sequences help to make the movie seem a little more professional than it looks when there isn’t any kicking going on. His direction falls apart in scenes were high kicks and acrobatics are not occurring, leaving the viewer to contend with sloppy, uneven scenes that crash into more sloppy uneven scenes until the action picks up. Too bad there weren’t more fight scenes.
Hicks plays the part of a guy going from zero to hero well, and I think he could have a good career starring in direct to video action pictures. His love interest in the film, played by stuntwoman Natascha Hopkins, is also very good in her part, and can put up her dukes as well in the fight scenes. Marla Gibbs even gives the production a touch of class by stepping into the small role of Auntie. James Black gives a performance that did make me laugh out loud once, which is really saying something for this film. His performance as the extremely self obsessed kickboxer out to destroy the afro ninja is really funny some of the time, but his character is hampered by writing that doesn‘t define him very well. One scene has him playing a strange kooky villain and the next has him playing things dead serious, which is not the best way to handle the lead bad guy in an obviously tongue in cheek film. While these four do a very admirable job of trying to pull this jalopy of a film to the finish line, its just not enough to save it.
Again, it isn’t the acting that hurts this movie, or the direction, or the editing. It’s an overall amateurishness on the technical end that permeates the whole thing. The lighting is not too good, the audio sounds like it was recorded in someone’s den, and the camera manages to lose people in scenes quite often. Not to be snarky, but it really does seem in some scenes as if friends just got together with a camcorder and decided to swede an action comedy picture. There are so many little issues with Afro Ninja that it takes a lot away from the best intentions of the Hicks and the rest of his merry crew.
I am sure this movie was made with a lot of favors instead of a little cash, so I can overlook some of the shoddiness, especially when this movie comes off feeling more like Hicks’s labor of love than a quick cash in on his YouTube fame, but as a whole Afro Ninja is just a bland, stagnate film that can only seem to find its power during the martial arts sequences. Let’s just say I don’t see the movie getting anywhere near the number of rentals that the YouTube clip got hits (and that’s around six and a half million at last check). And if your hoping for a team up with the legendary Jim Kelly you can forget it. You blink and you’ll miss him.
Afro Ninja: Destiny has a decent amount of extras; lots of behind the scenes stuff, and interviews with the cast, as well as some deleted scenes. I did quite enjoy the behind the scenes stuff with Hicks. He clearly has a passion for the project as he directs the action, but the rest of the extras must have been added more for the cast than crew than the viewer, because I just have a hard time believing anyone would care to see them after watching the feature.