Directed by James McTeigue
Written by Matthew Sand and J Michael Straczynski
Starring Rain, Naomie Harris, Sho Kosugi
Release Date: November 25, 2009
When I chose to review Ninja Assassin, I knew it would entertain me on some level just by the name alone. I mean, how can you mess up something like Ninja Assassin? Other than Hot Librarian or Free Wi-Fi, no two words in the English language have ever been more of a perfect fit for one another. Good or bad, it has to be fun to watch, at least on a primal, blood-letting level.
Raizo (Rain) is one angry ninja and who can blame him? First, he is kidnapped at a young age by the mysterious Ozunu Clan and trained to be a silent, death-dealing assassin for hire. Then, just when he decides to forgo killing a person at the request of his master, his clan turns their back on him and leaves him for dead. With revenge on his mind and the aid of a government agent (Naomie Harris), Raizo seeks to destroy his Clan and the Master who he once called family.
The story, written by Matthew Sand and J Michael Straczynski, provides an interesting dose of Japanese-style violence with the standard “lone wolf experiences love and loss” flashbacks into Raizo’s past. The fleshed out back-story is necessary for viewers who feel unfulfilled without one but is not needed. If you are watching a movie named Ninja Assassin, story and plot is not high on your list. Like this reviewer, you want to know if the movie delivers with their action sequences, and deliver it does, with bloody gusto.
The blood-letting starts right in the beginning with an assassination attempt and never lets up. Often visually stunning or brutally quick (but always bloody and gory), the action sequences go straight for the throat. The movie provides a healthy medium between stylized zoom in/zoom out martial arts action and dirty, street fighting fist-to-cuffs. The overuse of CGI blood is a little much and often too comical, but the sheer brutality of each fight should make up for it.
Rain, headlining his first feature movie, does a pretty decent job as the titular character. While he rolls off his dialogue like an Asian Antonio Banderas, you can see his potential in every scene he is in. You wouldn’t expect a lot of pop singers look as comfortable as he does kicking butt, but he does this with style, thanks in part to his sparse dialogue. He certainly has the look of a movie star and bulked up considerably to fill a ninja role convincingly. It’s no wonder that the Wachowski Bros., who are also producers of the film, would want to create a film around him.
As 2009 quickly comes to an end, I was getting a little bit worried that there was not a movie out there that would satisfy my need for escapism and bloody cartoon-like violence. Thankfully, Ninja Assassin silently appeared and unleashed martial art moves that blew my synapses. If you are a fan of ultra cool popcorn movies or ninjas, Ninja Assassin is just what the doctor ordered.