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Film / Tongan Ninja

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Tongan Ninja is a 2002 martial arts/musical parody, co-written by and starring Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame. It's plot is loosely based on the 1972 Bruce Lee movie Way of the Dragon, and along the way it playfully spoofs just about every martial arts trope in existence.

The story begins when a young boy named Sione (Sam Manu) survives a plane crash and finds himself stranded on an uncharted pacific island. After seeing his father tragically eaten by fish, the boy was trained by the locals in the art of Ninjitsu and grew to become the most dangerous ninja alive. Upon learning that the peaceful owners of a New Zealand eatery have been targeted by Mr. Big's "So-Called-Syndicate", Sione's wise old mentor Mr. Magasaki sends him to combat this terrifying threat. The Tongan Ninja must work his way through a host of formidable foes, including Knife Man ("he's good with knives!"), Gun Man ("he's good with guns!") and Hench Man ("he's good with...henches.") before battling the dreaded - and very hairy - Action Fighter (aka Marvin), his childhood nemesis and all-round jerkass, who turns out to be the long-lost son of crime-boss Mr. Big.

This movie contains the following tropes:

  • Acrofatic: Sione is a bit hefty (he has some muscle on him, though), but is, of course, the Tongan Ninja.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of the entire martial arts genre. Garish-looking costumes, cheap special effects and Hong Kong Dubbing are all major themes.
  • Arch-Enemy: Marvin/Action Fighter is this to Sione. He bullied him relentlessly when they were kids, is responsible for his father's death and continues to constantly antagonize him well into adulthood.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Action Fighter is a send-up to the "smug martial arts rival" archetype, and is an all-around insufferable prick.
  • Badass Boast: Knife Man, Gun Man and Action Fighter all deliver these. Only Action Fighter is able to back up his big talk.
  • Badasses Wear Bandanas: Sione's Tragic Keepsake is his father's bandana adorned with the Japanese flag and the kanji for "fighting spirit". He wears it throughout the film.
  • Battle Strip: Hilariously, Sione and Action Fighter devote several seconds of the fight simply to removing their shirts.
    Action Fighter: We will fight in the traditional style: topless!
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Sione is a pleasant guy, but harm his loved ones and he has no problem kicking your head off.
  • Big Bad: The aptly-named "Mr. Big", the leader of the evil syndicate.
  • Blade Enthusiast: Knife Man. He's good with knives.
  • Bound and Gagged: "I'd like to see you escape now you've got tape on your mouth Miss Lee!"
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: When he's fighting Gun Man, Sione actually grabs the Visible Boom Mic (that's been dangling in shot for a while) and starts deflecting bullets with it.
  • Bruce Lee Clone: Action Fighter wears what is essentially Bruce Lee's outfit from Way of the Dragon.
  • Captain Obvious: About 95% of the dialogue qualifies.
    Action Fighter: Yes, he is my father, and whats more...I am his son!
    *everyone gasps*
  • Carpet of Virility: Parodied when Action Fighter takes off his shirt and reveals a bizarre and very copious formation of chest hair.
    Mr. Big: Just like his mother...
  • Chase Scene: When Sione rides in hot pursuit of Mr. Big's Mooks, and seems to be pre-empting their every move:
  • Character Title: Sione is the Tongan Ninja.
  • Chop Sockey: The entire film is a send up to this genre.
  • Civvie Spandex: While Knife Man wears a garish jumpsuit and goggles, Gun Man looks like a regular guy, and doesn't seem to have even bothered wearing a costume.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Sione's father had his legs eaten off by piranhas and then died from blood loss.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Sione vs. Knife Man and Action Fighter vs. Gun Man. Sione and Action Fighter both win in a single attack.
  • Damsel in Distress: Miss Lee gets kidnapped by the Evil Syndicate during the climax.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Sione's loving father was eaten by a fish. Also, Miss Lee's parents were squished by Godzilla, leaving her to be raised by her uncle.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Mr. Big, supposedly. In reality, he doesn't really do much more than send various goons to beat various people up.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Action Fighter goes on to become Mr. Big's top enforcer, along with Sione's final opponent.
  • Elvis Impersonator: Action Fighter in the opening credits, quite inexplicably.
  • Enfant Terrible: Marvin. Doubles up as Evil Former Friend, assuming he and Sione were friends (and that's the most obvious explanation for Marvin being brought on the plane ride with Sione and his dad in the first place - aside from Rule of Funny).
  • Evil All Along: Chef Guy! And very Obviously Evil from the beginning at that.
  • Eye Scream: Action Fighter references this: "So I gouged this guy's eyes out, then I swapped them round and replaced a joke."
  • Fake Ultimate Mook: Despite the special fanfare both are given during their introductions, Knife Man and Gun Man are each defeated effortlessly. In fact, there are several random Mooks who fare better in a fight than they do.
  • Fanservice Extra: Action Fighter's Stat-O-Vision screen has him surrounded by four bikini-clad women.
  • Fatal Flaw: Action Fighter is an unbeatable karate master, but has absolutely no fighting spirit whatsoever. Thus, he will never be able to master Mr. Magasaki's magic glow technique.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: As a child, Action Fighter used to put spiders in Sione's futon! What a bastard! (He also deliberately caused the plane crash that stranded them on the island and laughed as Sione's father was eaten by fish, but it was those damn spiders that really got on Sione's nerves).
  • Fish out of Water: Sione when he visits New Zealand, being completely unfamiliar with modern civilisation and technology.
  • For the Evulz: Seemingly the only reason why Marvin sabotages the plane he, Sione and Sione's father were riding in. He strands all three of them, himself included, in a jungle with no means of escape simply to be a dick.
  • Freudian Excuse: During the final standoff, Action Fighter actually admits that the reason he's such a jerkass is because he's always been jealous of Sione (specifically Sione's close relationship with his father). It looks for a second like he's about to pull a Heel–Face Turn, but it turns out Sione simply zoned out for a minute and wasn't listening at all. The fight then continues as if nothing had happened.
  • Funny Bruce Lee Noises: All fights include a liberal amount of high-pitched screaming.
  • Giggling Villain: Asian Sidekick, who does little more than loudly laugh and comment about everything that happens immediately after it happens.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Played for laughs with Mr. Big and his mooks, who all go to baffling lengths to avoid swearing.
    Mr. Big: What the flup did you say?!
  • Groin Attack:
    Action Fighter: Movement 2A advanced: kick in the balls!
  • The Gunslinger: Gun Man. He's pretty good with guns.
  • The Hero: Sione, the titular Tongan Ninja.
  • Heroic Resolve: A high amount of a vaguely-defined attribute known only as "fighting spirit" is required for a person to be able to perform Mr. Magasaki's magic glow technique. Action Fighter's Fatal Flaw is that he has none.
  • Hidden Depths: Knife Man's Stat-O-Vision screen reveals him to possess a surprisingly high amount of fighting spirit, something which the other villains that have their stats shown sorely lack. Despite this, as all of his other stats are mediocre, Sione beats him in a few seconds.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: Sione and Action Fighter are ninjas In Name Only.
  • Hong Kong Dub: Taken to absurd levels. Quite often full lines of dialogue will be issuing from a character's closed mouth.
  • Infodump: The "plot" is almost exclusively advanced through lengthy and semi-sensical exposition-filled conversations between various characters.
  • Informed Ability: Neither Knife Man or Gun Man gets to display either of their supposed skills. This is possibly lampshaded by their Stat-O-Vision screens, which list them both as having very low "skill" stats.
  • Insistent Terminology: Never mind the fact that they never do anything remotely ninja-like, Sione and Action Fighter are ninjas.
  • It's Personal with the Dragon: Sione has an extensive history with Action Fighter but has no connection to Mr. Big.
  • Jerkass: Marvin, better known as Action Fighter, is a murderous borderline sociopath who, on top of that, acts like a taunting schoolyard bully at all times.
  • Kensington Gore: Parodied. When Sione has blood coming from his mouth, it's pink.
  • Klingon Promotion: Action Fighter joins the Syndicate by killing Gun Man, their previous enforcer.
  • Lack of Empathy: Marvin immediately mocks Sione for having a dad who was eaten by piranhas. Which only happened because he was carrying Marvin to safety across a lake filled with them. Which only happened because Marvin crashed the plane that they were driving in into a jungle.
  • Large Ham: Chef Guy, Chang the waiter and everyone affiliated with the So-Called Syndicate besides Gun Man.
  • Like Father, Like Son:
    Mr. Big: Make my coffee extra strong.
    Action Fighter: I also take my coffee...extra strong!
    Asian Sidekick: It is as foretold in the prophecy!
  • Lip Lock: Parodied. Every character is blatantly dubbed over in a rather half-assed way.
  • Loan Shark: The So-Called-Syndicate is trying to get Chef Guy to sell his restaurant to them by sending goons to scare off customers and bankrupt him.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: And whats more...Luke is his son.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Possibly. While Sione calls Action Fighter "Action Figure" at the beginning of their fight, he corrects himself after it's pointed out to him.
    Action Fighter: Are you ready, Tongan Ninja?
    Sione: I am ready, Action Figure.
    Action Fighter: Action Fighter.
    Sione: Action Fighter.
  • McNinja: Sione is Tongan and a ninja, therefore he is the Tongan Ninja.
  • Motor Mouth: Knife Man just won't stop talking about his knives.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Played for Laughs with Action Fighter, who possesses a unique "sexyness" stat, which he has of course maxed out, and makes a point of fighting topless during his final encounter with Sione. Despite this, he is revealed to have a ridiculous and rather disgusting amount of chest hair immediately upon taking off his shirt.
  • Musical: The movie is sort of a musical, although the songs are infrequent enough that each one feels like a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment. Especially the Chef's "Chop Suey" song, where a bunch of brightly-dressed dancers and backing vocalists appear out of nowhere and then abruptly disappear afterwards.
  • Nice Guy: Sione is an upstanding guy all around who is polite to everyone he meets.
  • Off with His Head!: Sione manages to decapitate Knife Man by kicking him in the head.
  • Old Master: Mr. Magasaki is the classic old karate master stereotype.
  • Overlord Jr.: Action Fighter is revealed to be Mr. Big's son, and is immediately accepted as his successor.
  • Overly Long Name: Dwayne the waiter's real name.
  • Parental Substitute: Miss Lee's uncle, and Mr. Magasaki to Sione and Marvin. He took them both under his wing after they were abandoned in the jungle following Sione's father's death. Sione sees him as a second father, whereas Marvin is indignant.
  • Power Glows: Mr. Magasaki's magic glow is some kind of energy attack that glows a bright green. It can only be performed by a ninja who is pure of heart, knowledge and spirit. Sione himself succeeds in mastering it during his final battle against Action Fighter.
  • The Quiet One: Compared to the talkative Knife Man, Gun Man is a man of few words. Coupled with his very plain appearance, he doesn't really come off as an assassin at all.
  • Raised by Natives: Sione and Marvin. After crash-landing in the jungle, they were taken in by Mr. Magasaki, a local karate master.
  • The Rival: Action Fighter, Sione's lifelong nemesis and Mr. Magasaki's other student.
  • Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Sione's childhood bully Marvin grows up into his rival Action Fighter, who essentially behaves exactly as he did as a child with the addition of amazing karate skills.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Despite their boasts and being named after their supposed skills, Knife Man and Gun Man's Stat-O-Vision screens reveal them to actually have very low "skill" stats. Fittingly, they're both defeated pretty easily.
    Action Fighter: So, you are the infamous Gun Man. I hear you're pretty good with guns.
    Action Fighter: (dismissively) I hear you're pretty good.
  • Stat-O-Vision: Knife Man, Gun Man and Action Fighter all receive a special screen that features a short song based around them and four meters showing their power, endurance, skill and fighting spirit. While Knife Man and Gun Man have stats that go all over the place, Action Fighter is shown to have maxed out all but fighting spirit, which is quickly replaced by a maxed out "sexyness" stat. Fittingly, Action Fighter's complete lack of fighting spirit eventually proves to be his undoing.
  • Slippery Skid: A variation, wherein the villains try to sabotage Sione's vehicle by dropping a single drawing pin on the road behind them, and then a pebble.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Miss Lee is the only important female character, with all others being extras.
  • Stylistic Suck: Everything about the film is gloriously cheesy.
  • Superior Successor: Action Fighter replaces Gun Man as the Syndicate's top enforcer and is better than him in every way.
  • The Syndicate: The Nebulous Evil Organisation is literally named "The So-Called Syndicate".
  • Talking Is a Free Action: While mostly played straight, it is averted in a single instance, where Sione gets fed up with hearing Knife Man's seemingly-endless Badass Boast and kicks his head off before he even gets a chance to attack.
  • Title Theme Tune: "The Tale of the Tongan Ninja", a spoof of the archetypal Bond themes, features Action Fighter writhing around in an Elvis costume, spouting some truly bizarre lyrics (they were written by Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie so that's to be expected).
  • Tragic Keepsake: Sione's last memento of his father is his old bandana, which he wore for good luck while flying.
  • There Are No Police: Lampshaded. The So-Called Syndicate owns the Police. Somehow.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Practically everyone. The entire plot relies upon the fact that the protagonists and villains are all equally ridiculous and dim-witted.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: When Sione catches sight of a pond, he's reminded of his father's death and starts to angst.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Action Fighter is played by the Tall, Dark, and Handsome Jemaine Clement but has a high-pitched, raspy and extremely annoying voice.
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: The fight scenes are generally rather lame-looking, and include things such as irritating pokes as techniques. Even ignoring this, despite being referred to as ninjas, Sione and Action Fighter never display any abilities associated with ninjas.
  • Wire Fu: Sione and Action Fighter's final battle begins with the two clashing in midair while being lifted by obvious wires.
  • You Fight Like a Cow:
    Action Fighter: You fight like a baby...a dead baby!