Co-produced by the Wachowski Brothers (boy, these guys just like Japanese mythos) of the Matrix fame and with a screenplay written by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski (one of my favorite writers) I knew I just had to give “NINJA ASSASSIN” a look. Being a martial arts action fan, I know what I am talking about when it comes to high-flying action, moody Asian plot elements and mysticism. Director James Mcteigue’s film is a lot of fun and provides some needed action ‘junk’ for martial arts fans and it is a fair attempt at creating a new martial arts hero.
Raizo (Korean actor Jeong “Rain” Ji-Hoon) is a deadly assassin who was kidnapped as a child to be raised and trained by the Ozunu Ninja Clan that is also known as the Black Sand Clan; the existence of this secret group of assassins is considered to be a myth. Following the execution of his childhood friend by his own clan, Raizo has severed all ties with the Ozunu and goes into hiding. He resurfaces some years later seeking revenge on the clan’s leader (Sho Kosugi) that takes him on a path that crosses with a young Europol agent named Mika (Naomie Harris) who is investigating the money linked to political murders and is in turn linked to the supposed mythic Ozunu Clan. Now, Raizo must confront his former brothers and to finally find redemption for the death of his childhood friend.
The plot in “Ninja Assassin” isn’t very special, it is your usual revenge flick that touches on the themes of redemption, regret and finally fulfillment of one’s destiny. However, what makes it somewhat engaging is the fact that the film has that Japanese flavor and carries enough of the style that made Asian movies successful in the martial arts genre. The screenplay gives some good characterization in the part of the lead character and focuses on his development as young student and finally a man. Raizo’s past is shown in the form of flashbacks, and writers Michael Sand and J. Michael Straczynski (he rewrote the script) manages to make a compelling character out of Raizo. From childhood, he has been tortured both mentally and physically by Lord Ozunu (nicely portrayed by Sho Kosugi) that proved to be his own rite of passage. His friendship with Kiriko (Kylie Goldstein) proves to be anchor within the walls of the Ozunu and his rivalry with another student Takeshi (Rick Yune) for the leadership of the clan proved to be his goal at first. Things change, and the script brings the exposition that the right woman can indeed change a man for the better, this is indeed a fact.
Alright, one isn’t exactly here for an inventive plot, martial arts action films usually soar because of the exciting fights and outrageous stunts; in this regard “Ninja Assassin” doesn’t disappoint. Actor Jeong Ji-Hoon does have the charisma of a young ninja warrior and he does move gracefully during the fights. The film is full of style and very cool macho posturing; this is after all, still a Hollywood flick so count on the usual extreme close-ups, tricks with CGI, and a lot of zooming in and outs that take us right in the middle of the action. The fight choreography is very good, and looks very spiffy. It is cool but Hollywood didn’t know when to stop and the scenes do become rather bombastic at times, that it came dangerously close to becoming “cartoonish“. Ninja’s are assassins that rely on stealth and the shadows to get to their objective, while the film does show those qualities (very cool), it barely has anything different to make 'stand out' from other martial arts films done by Hollywood. This movie would have done better with a more restrained style, but it does have its moments. The fights are long and very bloody; I liked the fights that occurred in the police safe house and the final fight with Sho Kosugi proved very exciting. It was such a thrill to see an older Kosugi show that he still has the stuff.
The film also has a significant amount of gore and loads of blood. I was happy to see the gore and massive amounts of blood but after awhile the CGI blood effects started to wear thin. I know the effects are probably done in a manner to pay homage to Japanese arterial sprays effects but it would’ve been better if it used the old-fashioned red-ink. The film also uses some prosthetics enhanced with the CGI blood, the results are a little uneven as the quality of the effects swing from good to just plain unnecessary.
“Ninja Assassin” has a fair share of supporting characters and while they did manage to get things going for Raizo, I am rather undecided whether they were necessary or not. Sure, Mika had her moments and actress Naomie Harris is nice to look at, but what is up with sidekicks? Hollywood still has little faith on the lead character to pull it off. Her superior Maslow (played by Ben Miles) provides some humor but this is where the dialogue resorts to becoming too obligatory, and the supporting characters do get in the way of the action.
“Ninja Assassin” is a fun action movie to watch. Despite its flaws, I enjoyed the way the fights were spaced out and if one is looking for balls-to-walls action then this film will not disappoint. Sometimes, we need a fun martial arts film and “Ninja Assassin” may just fulfill the needs of the action junkie. The CGI blood effects may prove to be a tad excessive at times, that I was a little turned off but I managed to look past it because the screenplay does manage to make Raizo an interesting and a compelling character. The film would have been better if it avoided the stereotypical sidekick affair and instead focused on the conflict between Raizo and Lord Ozunu, but hey, this is a Hollywood flick, so if you want real authentic ninja action film, turn your eyes to Japan.
* out of **** From the director of "V for Vendetta", a masterful adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name, comes this unexpectedly awful movie. While the name suggests badass ninja fight scenes and plenty of assassinations, the film fails to build upon any of its promises. There is a whole lot of action but none of it is particularly fun or exciting. The only thing that really reminds me of "V for Vendetta" is the coloring of the blood which is … more
I don't know whether to be slightly embarrassed by the level of enjoyment I got from this as it's by no means a good film in the traditional sense of the word. The acting is by no means good and perhaps it doesn't need to be as it's obviously a film targeted at the gore loving adrenaline junkies of the 21st century. It fits well for its target audience and will undoubtedly, as it's done with me, draw in people who would consider themselves fans of "Good Cinema" and would usually turn their … more
I went into this movie not expecting a great storyline or great acting. I went into this movie expecting a lot of cool ninja fight scenes and bloody action. But to my surprise, I got all the action I wanted and a decent plot. Ninja Assassin is a fictional Ninja flick about an orphan boy who becomes a full fledge ninja assassin. As the movie progresses, it explains how, Raizo (or however you spell it), became the ninja he is today. It shows the brutal … more
Ninja Assassin is a 2009 American action/martial arts film directed by James McTeigue and starring Rain. The film was produced by Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers, and filming took place in Berlin, Germany.
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.