Fantastic Fest 2009: Ninja Assassin
I understand fully that the point of being critical about a Hollywood film about Ninjas could be considered by some to be an exercise in futility. Really. Did anyone expect this to be good? I just really want to take the piss out of someone today and stretch my fingers. Ninja Assassin, you're my bitch tonight. You're just another example of Hollywood Action Film Making 101 and you con viewers into thinking they are watching something exciting and action packed. You're not. You're silly. You're rather boring. And you're another fine example of why bigger and louder doesn't mean better.
I guess when you're part of the Wachowski/Silver family your indoctrinated into the art of Bullet Time. McTeigue had already 'dazzled' us with Dagger Time in V for Vendetta and this time around he gave us Shuraken Time. I can't wait for Falling Flower Pot Time or Wife Throwing Dishes Time. Domestic violence will have never looked so good.
Damn this film was poorly lit. I understand the whole thing about Ninjas using the dark and it would have been easy to ask if anyone ever thought about turning on the lights but it would also appear that Ninjas are also master electricians and can eliminate partial city blocks just to carry out their deadly plans. The trouble of course is that McTeigue could use this to his advantage and hide from us that he really doesn't have a fucking clue what he is doing when it comes to framing his action scenes. Perhaps it was so dark he himself couldn't see what he was shooting. That's why it would appear that he got too close to his subjects. Was that it James? Just say yes and I'll forgive you.
A lot of the Asian actors spoke slowly as if they were on Valium, probably because they couldn't believe the dialogue they had been given to speak. And Rain was limited to sentences no more than between 4 to 6 words when you could see his lips move. Nice one on the boy band line though. That went completely over the heads of everyone in the theatre who don't know who Rain is outside of this role.
I commend everyone for all the hard work they put into the film. May I suggest it would have been easier on themselves if they simplified their shooting schedule, shot less, edited less. And think of all the money you would have saved on film stock and processing fees. The money you would have saved on labor costs and equipment rentals and catering costs. The less shots you preconceive for your film the less time you need to film it the less time you need everyone around. But the editor especially needs to be recognized for meeting more than the quota of five editors combined in this film. Truly you are at the top of your game when you can edit the swing of a sword from 15 individual shots.
Everyone worked overtime on this one editing the crap out of it and adding geysers of computer generated blood wherever they could except the floor- for the most part it would seem. Someone needs to talk to those fellas about the laws of physics and gravity. That blood had to fall somewhere. Tatami mats must be extra absorbent for such a reason. That being said I wasn't expecting this film to be this gory. Lots of limbs. When you have this many guys in pajamas swinging swords around widly someone is going to get knicked. But yeah, props for limbs and gore. Just work on that blood a bit more. You got your R rating. Well deserved. Too bad that's gonna hurt your box office take. 14 year olds around the world are firing up their browsers as we speak.
There was one scene in the climactic battle, you know, where the highly sensitive ninjas couldn't hear the humvees pull up outside the walls of their compound or the giant Chinook helicopters coming down the valley. Mountains reverberate sound dingbats! There was a scene where it looked like McTeigue conceded to pull the camera back far enough to let us see what the fuck was going on. Looked like. I want to say that Rain could handle himself with a sword but McTeigue made the rather odd choice of zooming right up to Rain, I guess to show the expressions of determination on his face, while the cutting and action happened just off screen. You could tell because there was more of that CGI blood spraying stage left or right.
I didn't have any expectations for Ninja Assassin. I go to screenings like this on the off chance that I am surprised and delighted by the end product. Sadly, this movie is just another sorry example of action film making from Hollywood. In their right hand they distract us with the shiny throwing star while with their left hand they're punching us in the pills.
- James McTeigue
- Matthew Sand (screenplay)
- J. Michael Straczynski (screenplay)
- Matthew Sand (story)
- Joon Lee
- Jonathan Chan-Pensley
- Ill-Young Kim
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