New York Ninja is not a movie you’ve seen, but you sort of have. You see, in 1984 John Liu wrote, starred in, and directed this over-the-top ninjasploitation film in New York. It had it all; gritty NYC and crime, a tragedy of epic proportions, and a hero donning a white ninja outfit slicing and dicing muggers, rapists, creeps, and gangland members in order to protect the city he loves, and to avenge his pregnant wife’s murder.
It may sound familiar and that’s because the synopsis was used in many 80s exploitation films. But New York Ninja never got made. After initial shooting took place the film was abandoned and sat for over 30 year until film company Vinegar Syndrome bought the original film negatives and painstakingly put the film together. It lives!
All the original audio had been lost to time, so VS hired names like Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Linnea Quigley, Ginger Lynn Allen, and Michael Berryman to voice these characters. All that was left was an 80s-heavy soundtrack to put us back into 1984. Detroit synth rockers Voyag3r were up to the task.
The results are a homage to street-vibe 80s action films that were made for next to nothing but worked to rewire the brains of kids like me in the 80s. Kids that spent hours watching Enter The Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, The Octagon, and Shaolin Ninja. Voyag3r capture the sound and feel of an 80s action movie. There’s a fine line between those 80s action and horror scores, and this Detroit three-piece walk it expertly.
From the wonky synth jabs to the wah-wah guitar riffs and percussive spots this score feels like it just walked out of a time machine from 1984. Keyboardist Steve Greene, guitarist Aaron Greene, and drummer Greg Mastin give us an albums worth of wonky electronic and caffeinated 80s rock to drop us right into the seedy city streets of the still tarnished Big Apple. 1984 was only a mere three years from 1981, one of the most dangerous years for NYC. Pre Disney-fied Times Square, the “eyes down” era of New York. Voyag3r lock in and keep us just a song or two away from the grime.
The band flesh out the mood of the film with everything from 80s guitar stabs, Curtis Mayfield-like soul, and post-Disco funk that all come together in a wash of neon dreams and urban nightmares. There’s still moments of melancholic introspection, like the dreamy “John In Mourning”, “I Let Them Take Her” and “I Know Who You Are”. “This Town Needs A Hero” even sports some Joe Lynn Turner-meets-Frank Stallone vocals.
I haven’t seen New York Ninja yet, but having spent a good amount of time in Voyag3r’s score I feel like I’ve got a pretty good idea of what to look forward to. 80s vibes for city blocks, with every kind of mood you’d want. This is the soundtrack Voyag3r were born to make.