Short film by Steven K. Tsuchida. USA, color, 2003. Runtime: 5 minutes.

Spoiler-free summary: After the untimely loss of his roommate, a young man finds himself sharing an apartment with a ninja, who is in some ways the ideal roommate. But alas, the domestic bliss can't last.

I first ran across this film in a Film Movement DVD, along with the Norwegian comedy Buddy (Morten Tyldum, 2003). But apparently it is available on the web, easily located by googling. A Ninja Pays Half My Rent won a special recognition award at the 2003 Aspen Shortsfest. In the same year it was nominated for Best Short Film at the Deauville Film Festival and won third place in the "Best Short Film" category at the Fant-Asia Film Festival. I found it quite funny, with a nice blend of the over-the-top and the understated.

Complete summary (mit spoilers):

The film opens with two young men jogging together. As they jog, one tells the other that he has a new roommate, because things "didn't work out" with his last one. A flashback shows the previous roommate's demise due to a deadly grapefruit squirt in the eye.
We return to the joggers. The protagonist explains how he needed another roommate stat to help pay the rent, leading him to put up flyers and ask friends and whatnot. Another flashback shows us how the new roommate arrives: by stealth. The new roommate makes his presence known by leaving a hair on the bathroom soap. When the protagonist notices it, he looks up to see a ninja dressed all in black looking at him from the bathroom doorway.
"We're working out our differences," the protagonist tells his jogging buddy. The corresponding flashback shows how, at breakfast, the ninja roommate refuses to acknowledge the protagonist's requests that he pass the maple syrup. Just when the protagonist is really annoyed and about to blow his top, he finds the syrup having moved his way without any apparent human intervention.
"I hardly even know he's there," says the protagonist. Indeed, the ninja roommate is apparently ideal, and in the flashback we see the protagonist obliviously watching a nature show on television and eating cereal while the ninja engages in combat with a rival ninja who dresses in red.
It's a good situation. "You, me, and the ninja," the protagonist tells his friend, should go out and get a few beers sometime. But as he arrives home, he finds his roommate lying dead, a throwing star in his spine, over an ottoman in the living room, where the ninja was apparently folding his all-black laundry. The protagonist looks to see the victorious red-clad ninja standing over him, clutching a very fluffy cat.
"No pets," says the protagonist warily. Then, after reconsidering for a moment, he revises: "Whatever's good for you."

What I find amusing about this short is the way it blends the high drama of the action genre with the banality of daily life: roommates, laundry, breakfast cereal. In this film, the events of the mundane and domestic have potentially violent and dramatic consequences: a grapefruit squirt to the eye can be deadly, passing the syrup is best done with secret ninja skills, and the search for a decent apartment with reasonable rent leads to ninjas assassinating one another. And on the flip side, ninjas have a home life; they use the bathroom, eat breakfast, and have pet cats. Part of what helps the short accomplish this is that all of the characters are men. While maintaining an insistently domestic theme, the short subverts the gender associations of the domestic narrative, letting it cross the more easily into the equally gendered action genre. It's not Pasadena Freeway Stills, but it's worth the watching, in my opinion.


  • Steven K. Tsuchida, A Ninja Pays Half My Rent. 2003.
  • IMDB:

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