Review Catch-Up: “Ninja Assassin”

December 15, 2009 at 6:51 pm Leave a comment

I may be alone on this one, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of James McTeigue’s V For Vendetta.  I didn’t hate the movie, in fact I’ll say I liked it.  However, it wouldn’t be on my top 5 of greatest comic book adaptations list.  When I heard he was working on a ninja movie, starring none other than Asian sensation Rain, I was skeptical.  I told myself that I’d see anyway, since it was a movie focusing solely on ninjas, and we haven’t had a movie like that in a while (Last Samurai doesn’t count; it was about samurais).

Ninja Assassin barely has a plot.  It’s about a ninja, Raizo (Rain), who rebels against his clan, choosing the path of peace over killing for hire.  He travels the world, trying to expose his clan to the public.  Unfortunately, there’s not much peace for him, as his actions have brought dishonor to his mentor, Ozunu (the great Sho Kosugi).  In retaliation, Ozunu has unleashed his entire clan to bring down Raizo.  Then there’s Mika (Naomi Harris), a Europol agent who’s investigating a string of political assassinations which may all be related.  Her hunt for evidence has put her on the list of Ozunu’s enemies.

If that sounds like a decent story (and it could be, given the proper medium, like comic book), it’s an afterthought here.  The movie’s 90-minute runtime is commanded by a) fight scenes, and b) flashbacks that fill in Raizo’s backstory.  Generally, things like flashbacks and voice-overs are frowned upon in the screenwriting world as ‘lazy storytelling’, and while I’m not going to fault this movie for having flashbacks, I will say that there’s too many of them, and every time we see one, I get bored.  I want to see ninjas fighting.

And you see that.  In spades.

I thought the name Ninja Assassin was stupid.  I mean, it’s kind of redundant, right?  Aren’t ninjas already assassins?  But then, watching this movie, I realized that Raizo assassinates other ninjas.  Get it?  He’s a ninja assassin!  And if I thought V for Vendetta was a little slow and boring, Ninja Assassin is the exact opposite for most of the movie.  The story is inconsequential, this flick is all about ninjas versus thugs, ninjas versus some crazy army/police force, ninjas versus other ninjas.

McTeigue and his stunt team have crafted some ridiculously awesome fight scenes.  And these aren’t quick, 30-second, quickly edited fight; some go one for minutes at a time.  And, there’s probably a fight scene every 10 minutes or so.  One particularly stands out: the setup is an abandoned warehouse being used as a command post by Europol.  Mika is the target.  You’d think being surrounded by dozens and dozens of trained guys with automatics would offer some protection.  Ozunu’s ninjas make short work of them, but Raizo makes short work of the ninjas.  Watching the excellently choreographed fights make me want to just jump around and kick people.  And, this fight scene lasts for the better part of 10 minutes.

What I also appreciated was that the movie kept a bit of the mystery surrounding ‘the ninja’.  They move with inhuman speed and can stalk their prey from, literally, the shadows, using the darkness to appear and disappear.  These aren’t The Foot Clan from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, these are trained, merciless killers.  I also didn’t expect the movie to be this gory.  The blood flows freely, only stopping when the blades stop moving.

With a title like Ninja Assassin, you probably already know what to expect from this movie.  Lots and lots and lots of fighting.  For action or martial arts fans, this is a can’t-miss kinda movie.



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Review Catch-Up: “2012” Review: “Avatar – The IMAX 3D Experience”

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