FF 2009 Review. Ninja Assassin

Contributor; Reykjavik, Iceland
FF 2009 Review. Ninja Assassin

I knew pretty much exactly what to expect when I walked in to the screening of Ninja Assasin tonight. A glossy, slick, maybe even a little homoerotic, action film with a wafer thin plot and lots of CGI enhanced action. And I got exactly that.

Raizo was trained as a killer from childhood by a legendary but highly secret Ozunu clan. They are ruthless in their teachings, to strip away emotion you see and Raizo is one of the top ass kickers in the group. But a man's spirit is fickle when it comes to poon when he falls for a pretty little lady in the clan and ultimately ruins a life time of training to be the perfect assassin in a matter of day. She melts his cold heart but when she is executed by the clan for trying to escape Raizo rebels against his peeps and disappears, waiting for the chance to strike a lethal blow to the organization. 

Years later a cute Interpol agent called Mika, who is investigating ninjas for some reason, is able to track down Raizo in Berlin but calls attention to herself and becomes a target of the evil Ozunu clan who will stop at nothing to shower her with shurikens and assorted sharp metal objects. Hilarity ensues.

The biggest weakness of this film is the story and the script. This is poor philosophical melodrama territory with atrocious dialog and a weak story. The performances aren't helping the dialog either. Rain, while incredibly handsome, cut to shreds or not, isn't exactly a master thespian, limiting his sentences to two or three at a time while looking all serious and tormented. He moves good though, when you can see it and makes for a convincing action hero. 

Original 80's Ninja superstar Sho Kosugi plays the villain of the piece and it was nice to see him there but man the dude is old.

The problem with the rest of the film is that director James McTeigue goes for the predictable fast cutting when it comes to the fight scenes and makes the mistake of staging most of them in darkness, because of ninjas love shadows and shit like that. So not only can't you really see what is going on you couldn't even see it anyway because it's all in the dark. That is surprising seeing how the Wachowski's are behind this project and one of the reasons The Matrix was so praised for its action was that you could see the main actors strut their stuff in long takes without the help of cutaways and stunt men. Here not so much.

Now McTeigue clearly wanted the film to be more in comic book, superhuman abilities territory so the fights utilizes CGI quite heavily to beef up the fight scenes by generating gigabytes of fake blood and speed lines for that admittedly awesome chain weapon he uses (they even CG enhanced a close up shot of ketchup being squirted on fries). I was surprised how obvious most of the CG blood was, standing out like a sore thumb in those dark scenes. I do have have to admit that I really dug the opening scene of the movie, while extremely CG heavy it was so over the top that you couldn't help but laugh and enjoy it. Sadly they never topped that scene in the rest of the film. That opening scene also foreshadowed the most retarded plot point I've seen in a long time.

But while the action is very stylized and superhuman at times the rest is very basic and pretty down to earth creating a misbalance in both look and feel of the film.

Ultimately this is just an empty action film designed to please and I'm sure many people will enjoy it. Those looking for something that resembled V For Vendetta in depth and tone should look elsewhere. Those looking for slick, gore heavy martial art action might find some nice moments in there.

Ninja Assassin

  • James McTeigue
  • Matthew Sand (screenplay)
  • J. Michael Straczynski (screenplay)
  • Matthew Sand (story)
  • Rain
  • Joon Lee
  • Jonathan Chan-Pensley
  • Ill-Young Kim
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James McTeigueMatthew SandJ. Michael StraczynskiRainJoon LeeJonathan Chan-PensleyIll-Young KimActionCrimeThriller

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