Norwegian Ninja DVD Review: A Tale of Bizarre Absurdist Comedy

A movie so surreal, even Luis Buñuel would scratch his head and say "No comprende."
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Movies that depict events of real-life political scandals usually wind up being about as memorable as the entire career of WWF alumni Brutus the Barber Beefcake: unless you're some sort of freak that obsesses on the subject matter in question, you're really not going to give a shit about it 26 days down the line. But what about 26 years after a guy like Arne Treholt? While a good 99.9% of Americans can safely say they have no idea who he is, he's something of a legend in his native Norway, where he was convicted and sent to prison in 1984 for treason.

Treholt's classic case of Cold War espionage would hardly make a thoroughly secure notch for itself in the box office of any country, something first-time filmmaker Thomas Cappelen Malling obviously sensed. And so, Malling constructed a bizarre piece of alternative history entitled Kommandør Treholt & Ninjatroppen which, not only depicts Treholt in a positive, entirely patriotic light, but also portrays him as a super Norwegian Ninja (as it's called in America).

Mixing the fears of the Cold War, that antiquated '80s technology we still recognize and shudder over, a hip disco score and uncredited elements from the very worst Godfrey Ho offerings imaginable, Norwegian Ninja is so strange that it actually escalates above surrealism in a way that would even find Luis Buñuel himself scratching his head saying "No comprende." Here, Treholt (Mads Ousdal) operates a secret, secluded island wherein he trains a number of men in the fine art of "ninjery."

They use wingsuits, employ feng shei to ward of invaders by throwing them off-balance, talk to animals and have a killer lineup of vehicles like underwater torpedo-ski contraptions and a high-speed flying boat car thing. Who pays for all this shit? Well, it's all at the behest of King Olav V (Trond-Viggo Torgersen), a seemingly-senile old fool who is really more lucid than one would believe. And the King's secret army is in place for good reason, too -- as the country is being secretly besieged by a number of traitors!

Making sure to pay proper respect to the campy cult films that inspired it, Malling deliberately keeps his special effects cheesy (I'm sure that even if the movie had been endowed with a much larger budget, things would have stayed the same). The acting is often intentionally stilted, as is some of the dialogue, while other aspects of the movie, though just as ridiculous, are incredibly reminiscent of actual events, such as a scene where a manned plane -- part of the dastardly internal subterfuge -- flies towards a building sporting twin towers as part of distraction so that the "ignorant masses" will endorse the country going to war.

Wow.

Dark Sky Films brings us this absurdist comedy in an anamorphic widescreen presentation that preserves the film's 2.35:1 aspect ratio and a choice of either 5.1 or 2.0 Norwegian audio (yes, English subtitles are included -- I would have really been confused were there not). Special features include several deleted scenes, a number of behind-the-scenes stuff, a handful of trailers/TV spots and a music video featuring the movie's epically-awesome end theme (you'll want to buy the soundtrack).

As much as I detest using such a word, Norwegian Ninja is definitely "hip" (much in the same way ninjas are to most people). The big drawback here, however, is the film gets too lost in its own surrealism at times; I enjoyed it, but it literally gave me a headache because of all the inspired illogicality. Thus, my recommendation for this film comes with a stipulation, should you choose to view this film (and you should): the consumption of drugs and/or alcohol are highly suggested.

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