Norwegian Ninja on DVD

Monday, 18 April 2011 13:40

Ninjas are cool. Cross them with stereotypically icy-demeanoured Norwegians and you surely have a recipe for the coolest thing ever, right? Well that is the premise of “Norwegian Ninja”, though director Thomas Cappelen Malling has crafted his film as an amusing pseudo-documentary replete with larger than life characters, Thunderbirds-style action sequences and dozens of mystical ninjas.

The idea for the movie comes from the life of a real-life Cold War-era spy, Arne Treholt, convicted of high treason in the mid-1980s. However, Malling has reshaped the story into an absurdly whacky tale of a ninja assault force that tries to thwart the ideologically-dodgy antics of ‘Stay Behind’, a ‘fake’ terrorist organisation carrying out bombings to remind the public that the commie Russians pose an ever-present threat.

Norwegian Ninja comes to DVDThe straight-but-funny tone and style of the film take some getting used to, and a repeat viewing is almost certainly recommended, providing you stay with it long enough to ‘get’ it. For example, the movie consists of a sequence of intentionally scratchy, mock-period hand-held camera clips interwoven with more traditional action scenes and news bulletins.

It is occasionally hard to follow and the lack of visual clarity combined with rapid-fire subtitles means that this is one loopy film that you cannot sit back and relax for, at least on the first time around.

I honestly cannot make up my mind if this oddity is the biggest pile of film-student-grade rubbish ever committed to film, or a genuinely refreshing and funny future cult hit. On balance I think I will go with the label ‘acquired taste’.

It certainly has some endearing qualities, such as the beautiful and curious wildlife on the ninjas’ island, the Sean Bean-esque Mads Oussdal who plays Treholt in a disarmingly straight but simultaneously knowing manner, and the aforementioned Gerry Anderson-style special effects which seem to opt for scale models and cleverly constructed sets and vehicles rather than CGI. The quality of the effects varies wildly (perhaps by design?), but on the whole they are impressive.

On many occasions you do not know if the action sequences are genuine stunts or cunning green-screen antics, and the hell-for-leather pacing helps to paper over the cracks. Every once in a while the plot pauses briefly for some hippy-style relaxation or cod philosophising on the top of a stunning Norwegian mountain, but it is never long before the ninjas embark on their next mission or rites of passage trial.

The main feature is very short at an hour and a quarter, but thankfully the plentiful extras crammed onto the disc help to bulk up the entertainment value. They total over 70 minutes on their own, and include a mixture of traditional behind-the-scenes clips and also some more outlandish material.

For example, there is a brilliantly constructed fake action figure advert, a montage of life and the wildlife on the island that feels like a holiday destination promo, and the wonderfully daft ‘Home Alone with Otto’, where ninja nemesis Otto (Jon Øigarden) hams it up to the camera, flexing his muscles and working out on a rowing machine in a comedic bid to both frighten and dazzle the viewer.

As a combined package this release is hard to fault, and definitely worth a look in case this kind of comedy is your cup of tea.

“Norwegian Ninja” (2010) is released on DVD on 18 April, courtesy of Entertainment One. The main feature has a running time of 77 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £12.99, or less from

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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