Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review - Ninja Assassin

As an infant, Raizo was taken by the Ozunu. The Ozunu are an ancient clan of ninjas who train orphans into lethal assassins. When Raizo later turns his back on the ninja family who trained him, the Ozunu seek out retaliation. Raizo however, is planning vengeance of his own. Caught in between the Ozunu Ninjas and Raizo is a Europol agent that has uncovered the illusive underground network of untraceable assassins.

There was a time when Ninja films came a dime dozen. Growing up I would watch various Ninja films and relish in the bloody goodness. More recently, the Ninja has vanished from cinemas. He has sought to lurk in the shadows patiently waiting for the right moment to attack. That moment is now! "Ninja Assassin" is a exciting throwback to when action was very simple, yet it ups the ante with director James McTeigue's particular brand of flare and gore.

"Ninja Assassin" is in every way absolutely absurd. Only, it's the kind of absurd, that draws you in and gives you a thrill packed ride. From the get go, the viewer knows what they've paid for and it's a blood heavy (albeit CGI), action packed romp that provides many oohs and awes, but remains completely unbelievable. As expected, the dialogue and acting is laughable at times, but the action sequences and eye-popping gore more than make up for any of the negatives.

The backstory within "Ninja Assassin" is by far the most compelling parts to the script penned by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski. However the writing team did put together a solid story that is simple, yet intriguing enough to retain the viewers interests in between all of the fighting and dismembering. Where the script does tend to become tedious is the dialogue. There are a few too many moments within the 99 minute running time that the entire theater was laughing at the cheese-ball dialogue. Luckily the downtime in "Ninja Assassin" is very minimal.

As far as the action within "Ninja Assassin" there is no let down here. Amazing fighting sequences for a genre that has seen just about everything done. One issue with all of the action and gore, is the CGI. It can become distracting at times. After thinking about the film and the heavy CGI blood, I began to defend the use of it. So many times before we have seen the traditional blood work. Soaked sets covered in blood. Limbs sliced off and massive sprays of blood. These scenes are always shocking and take a certain brand of twisted to enjoy, but have never felt natural. In "Ninja Assassin" however, while the CGI blood does not look natural in the slightest, the splatter and spray feels completely natural. Utilizing the CGI for all of the blood allowed for the spray and spatter to follow the pattern of the various Ninjas and how they are wielding their weapons. Ultimately, while it was a change from what were are use to in previous blood work, I think director James McTeigue took a step in the right direction. Something that can be refined and better used in films to come.

The biggest triumph in "Ninja Assassin" is all of the shadow play done with the various Ninjas. Amazing! There are numerous sequences throughout the film with the Ninjas lurking within the shadows only visible for a split second and the result is jaw dropping. I wasn't the only one getting my jollies off of the shadow play, the entire theater would react each time we got a glance. Undeniably impressive, while being a complete surprise and an added bonus.

Overall "Ninja Assassin" is what I wanted from a Ninja movie. It is filled to the brim with well sequenced action sequences, tons of dismembered limbs, heads and various body parts and has a story that can keeps your interest before picking apart any of the plot holes or wait a minute's. Korean Pop sensation Rain is decent in the title role of Raizo, while Naomie Harris is except for a few shining moments, grating. In the end, when I went to a film called "Ninja Assassin" I wasn't expecting staggering performances, but more so gut wrenching and exhilarating action. Which is simply, what I got. If your a fan of Ninja films or just a fan martial arts, there's no denying you'll get a kick out of "Ninja Assassin."


doesn't sound like they changed a whole lot since i saw it. i dug the action, of course, but what i don't get is how they let this become AMERICAN NINJA with a korean guy instead of a white guy! this was the easiest movie to make and they dropped the ball by letting it have the most cliche-ridden, b-movie plot-driven story ever committed to film, as if none of the filmmakers had ever watched hbo after midnight or seen a straight-to-dvd movie. for me it was a big letdown. i love the wachowskis, but this one didn't even work on the level where SPEED RACER worked for me. here's to hoping mctiegue's next project holds a bit of redemption for him.