Film review: "Ninja Assassin" is a bloody bore
Published: Monday, November 30, 2009 - 11:54pm
Starring Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles
Released: Nov. 25, 2009
IT SEEMED THAT the makers of "Ninja Assassin" spent most of their budget on gory special effects rather than paying a decent writer.
I did not particularly enjoy this movie. The plot was simplistic, yet because of dizzying flashbacks and spotty lighting you could get a headache trying to follow it.
Some of the special effects were admittedly cool, but overuse kept them from making any serious impact. The frequent use of shadows and roving camera also obscured most of the choreography and stunts that had the potential to be decent.
The plot is relatively easy to guess from the title.
The first few minutes involve an ominous old man who gives the mocking gang a dire warning. This is then followed by the first ninja attack, in which some thug gets the top of his head cut off.
The detached portion of the skull then conveniently lands in front of the camera so that the audience can admire it in its full glory. Some guy gets chopped diagonally in half, and that is just the opening sequence.
The actual story gets starts a little later. Raizo (Rain aka Jeong Ji-hoon), the story's protagonist, has been trained since birth to become a deadly killer and a member of the secret Ozunu clan. To the outside world the members of the Ozunu clan are known as the ninjas, and they carry out political assassinations for a price.
In his training, Raizo becomes impervious to pain and all weakness. He becomes a leader among his class and is in a position to become the next great clan leader.
However, after the clan murders his obnoxiously sweet girlfriend for breaking rules, Raizo goes rogue and vows to hunt down the clan he once recognized as his family.
Luckily for the pretty and helpless Mika, Raizo swoops in to save her from the impending assassination. Mika and Raizo then begin trying to take down the powerful ninja clan.
The plot is played out through disconcerting flashbacks that may or may not have anything to do with the plot at hand.
At one point the old ninja sensei, or whatever he is called, cuts his hands and heals them by the power of thought. At this point I was thinking, “OK? Great. The ninjas are now magical. Hmm … I wonder where this is going?” Later I find the answer is nowhere. This healing power is never mentioned again except for vague references when the ninjas get up from the floor to fight again.
Another discontinuity is when Mika and Raizo are very careful to hide their scent from the ninjas tracking them. They go to absurd measures such as taking a shower without soap and blowing cigarette smoke over themselves. The question of whether ninjas have supersonic smelling power is then never addressed again.
There is an intensive sequence in Raizo’s training flashbacks where he learns how to fight blindfolded. It was cool, but it’s a pity that he had to get smacked so many times to learn it. Fighting blindfolded never came up again.
The plot had many loose ends. But my other major problem was the ninja throwing stars of doom. Or whatever you call them. They noisily whistled through the air so that the lead guy could of course dodge them. But aren’t ninja throwing stars supposed to be silent? The ninja stealth value is kind of ruined. Why not just buy a gun? The ninjas need to get with the 21st century here.
A point of interest in this movie is the lead character. The actor who plays Raizo happens to be an incredibly successful South Korean pop star. "Ninja Assassin" is his second American film. After this movie, I would advise him to go back to singing and dancing.
If you’re looking for a huge body count and lots of unrealistic carnage, this is your movie; otherwise, don’t waste your time.
"Ninja Assassin" AT A GLANCE
- Starring: Rain (as Raizo), Naomie Harris (as Mika), Ben Miles (as Maslow), Rick Yune (as Takeshi)
- Directed by: James McTeigue
- Written by: Matthew Sand (screenplay), J. Michael Straczynski (screenplay), Matthew Sand (story)
- Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
- Rated: R
- Runtime: 99 min.
- Release date: Nov. 25, 2009
- Summary (from IMDb): Trained since childhood to be a lethal killer, Raizo has since turned his back on the Ozunu clan that raised him and now seeks revenge for their heartless murders. Teaming up with Europol investigator Mika, Raizo steadily butchers his enemies while inching ever closer to the long-awaited bloody reunion with his former master.