Thursday, 21 April 2011

DVD Review: Norwegian Ninja

Norwegian Ninja aka Kommandør Treholt & ninjatroppen

Directed By Thomas Cappelen Malling

Starring: Mads Ousdal, Jon Øigarden, Trond-Viggo Torgensen


Norwegian Ninja is the debut feature by author-turned-filmmaker Thomas Cappelen Malling and tells the “true” story of Arne Treholt, who in real life was a former Norwegian social democratic politician and diplomat. In the 80s he was convicted of high treason and espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union and Iraq and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In Malling’s crazy movie, Treholt (Oussdal) is a highly trained member of Norway ’s covert ninja force. Discovering a sinister plot against Norway lead by Treholt’s nemesis, Meyer (Oigarden), an operative of an anti-Soviet force funded by NATO, Treholt and his ninja force must fight to defeat Meyer’s co-conspirators in the name of King Olav.


Faux-documentaries go from the sublime (Spinal Tap, which is a rockumentary) to the ridiculous. Norwegian Ninja is the ridiculous. This could be a good or a bad thing depending on how you see life and see movies as a form of recreation and generally how your sense of humour works.

One thing that this movie must be, is truly unique. I’ve certainly not seen anything like it before and very much doubt that I will again.

First and foremost, I advise the potential viewer to make use of the online support that this movie has. The associated website helps to ease you into the world of Treholt and the filmmakers approach to storytelling. There are articles about action figures; rare ones being traded at "Ninja-Con". (George Lucas has much to answer for). There is also a fun section on Ninja Retro Gaming.

Get into the spirit of the movie and I imagine that it could be very rewarding.

The look of the film is intentionally muddy for the most part. Bizarrely, the film stock improves as the movie progresses. The earlier look appears to serve a number of purposes such as hide the dodgy effects and emulate faded overused instructional videos from the 70s and 80s. The acting is intentionally over the top and sometimes humour comes from just observing the actor’s faces.

The trouble with the movie,is that it didn’t engage me. I realised from the offset that I wouldn’t relate to it, that wasn’t the issue. The issue was that I found the movie to be fairly dull. The humour didn’t resonate with me. I have a healthy sense of humour but it isn’t wise to this kind of thing. The serious tone and the following of subtitles helped to hamper my viewing too. I may well have missed the timing of some jokes – not that it would have made much difference. I was waiting for some light bulb to go off in my head and realisation to stimulate interest in the proceedings but it never came.

Despite my experience of the movie I feel that it’s a great idea, and I applaud the filmmakers for having the stones to make a movie that undoubtedly from the offset will only appeal to a small niche market.


Norwegian Ninja is a Marmite film – you’ll either love it and embrace it for what it is, or hate it for the very same reasons. Sadly, I fall into the latter category. If you weren’t born before the 80s, in Norway , it doesn’t matter but sure does help.

Score: 5/10 - mainly for the concept and the huge amount of supporting  web based extra content.

The DVD is available from all good outlets - online and offline.

A different take on the movie can be found here:

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