This review will be broken down into two sections: 1) The quality of the movie itself, and 2) The BD Disc quality.
First up, the film itself:
Plot (WARNING, MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!)
The time is present day, and somewhere in a rural region of Japan, a dojo carries on the tradition of the Koga Ninja by training students in the ninja arts. The head of the school, called the Soke, is nearing retirement age and must choose his successor. His top two students are fierce rivals and both are leading candidates to inherit the title of Soke. However, before the Soke can appoint his successor, one of the top two students disgraces himself in a training duel against his rival and is banished from the school. Predictably, the banished student becomes a freelance assassin, and we see him employ his ninja skills to deadly effect in a very cool assassination sequence.
We soon learn that the Soke is the keeper of some ancient Koga weapons which, legend has it, grants the wielder extraordinary abilities. The banished ninja comes calling to claim the weapons, but only after they've been shipped elsewhere for safekeeping. A vicious battle ensues between the bansihed ninja and the Soke, and at the conclusion of this battle, the chase is on for the Koga weapons, with the film culminating in a showdown between, you guessed it, the two rival ninja students. In this climactic battle, only one survives.
As an added bonus, the beautiful daughter of the Soke is thrown into the mix, but sadly, she serves as little more than window dressing. While she demonstrates some ninja skills, she is mostly helpless in a fight and is relegated to the role of damsel in distress more often than not, despite having trained all her life in the ninja arts. Though in her defense, she's fairly useful with a bow and arrow, and she's nice to look at.
The plot is better than most straight to video flicks, and in this case, serves as the thin thread tying the action scenes together, which are themselves well choreographed and well filmed.
The action scenes feature the generous use of ninja weapons, including some impressive sword battles, as well as some decent hand to hand fight scenes. Aside from three fairly intense one-on-one fight scenes (all featuring liberal use of the katana), most of the battles feature one of the top ninjas in the film dispatching a multitude of lesser skilled opponents. The star of the film, Scott Adkins (caucasian actor and good guy ninja), demonstrates impressive martial arts and acrobatic ability, and it appears that he performed most of his own stunts. Keep your eyes open for a scene where he uses his acrobatic ability to evade an oncoming car. The ninja villain (asian actor and bad guy ninja, read into that what you will) also seemed to be well versed in martial arts and the use of ninja weapons, and I dare say that the fight scenes in this movie were more impressive than those in "Ninja Assassin" due in equal part to good choreography (far better than a Van Damme or Seagal flick, though don't expect anything as energetic or creative as what you'd see from Hong Kong legends like Yuen Woo Ping, Corey Yuen, Jet Li or Jackie Chan), the actors in this film being experienced martial artists, and an editing style that lingers just long enough on the action (as opposed to the hyper-quick cut aways used in Ninja Assassins, which is the norm for a film featuring actors who aren't very adept at performing the action featured in the film) so you can appreciate the skill of the actors pulling off the moves.
Nothing to write home about. The actors look and play their parts well enough as far as action films like this go, but none of them deliver performances that will leave a long lasting impression on you. That's a good thing though, because the acting isn't horrible either. It's just good enough to move the story along, as threadbare and full of plotholes as it is.
The special effects:
There is liberal use of blood splattering, sometimes into the camera, when a katana is used to lethal effect. The blood didn't look overly cartoony to me, but your tolerance/appreciation of these effects will vary depending on how much of a gorehound you are.
The pyrotechnics are good. Swords clashing generate sparks at the appropriate times, and I recall two separate vehicle explosions also being impressively done.
As for the BLU-RAY itself:
Picture quality on my 1080P Phillips is excellent, though not quite reference material. The image is generally sharp, colors are well delineated with little crush evident in day or night scenes, and there is very little to no film grain, leading me to believe the film was shot digitally, with some grain retained for a film-like appearance.
I can't provide a detailed review of the audio, as I utilize only the speakers on my tv itself, but from what I heard, I can say the audio came across clearly, with dialogue being easy to pick up and louder foley effects, such as swords clashing, gun fire, and explosions, coming in crisply as well.
There is nothing in the way of special features, unless you count previews of other movies.
All in all, if you're not too critical when it comes to martial arts themed movies, and you have an interest in seeing ninjas fighting ninjas and killing people in bloody fashion without an overuse of rapid cut editing, you may be pleasantly surprised. I recommend "Ninja" to viewers who are nostalgic for films like American Ninja (the first and best of the series) and Sho Kosugi films like Revenge of the Ninja.
Is Ninja worth a blind buy though? I'd say for the $15 price tag, it is if you're a fan of violent and bloody ninja films. If you're just a casual fan, a rental is the safest bet.
Either way, whether you rent or buy, there are far worse films in this genre out there, so happy viewing!