“Sure doesn’t look like a killing machine to me, sir. He looks like he belongs in a boy band.”
The Scoop: 2009 R, directed by James McTeigue and starring Rain, Naomie Harris, and Sho Kosugi.
Tagline: Fear Not the Weapon But the Hand That Wields It.
Summary Capsule: An attractive plot device for revealing exposition stumbles into the secret world of ninja assassinations and goes on the run with an rebel ninja seeking revenge on his former clan.
Al’s rating: There are twelve ninjas hidden around this review page. See if you can spot them all!
Al’s review: About two-thirds of the way through Ninja Assassin, it finally dawned on me what the movie was reminding me of. Not the style—it only takes about five minutes to figure out this is by the guys who made The Matrix and V for Vendetta—but the experience of watching it. It reminded me of Predator 2.
While the original Predator is a universally beloved film (mostly because it’ll beat up anyone who says different), Predator 2 kinda sorta… stinks. I know it has its fans, but the whole “urban jungle” thing with Danny Glover and Columbian drug lords just puts me to sleep. Sorry. Despite that, however, it also introduces all the cool stuff that turned the Predator from a one-note invisible bad guy into something worth making movies and comic books about. We get to see exotic weapons, cool hunting gear, and, of course, the spaceship and Alien skull that launched a thousand fanfics. Ninja Assassin is kinda like that.
There’s no “Predator 1”–type movie that sets things up here, but I think we’re all pretty much hip-deep the ninja thing by this point, so it’s not really missed. The plot? It’s exists, I guess, it’s just not very interesting or important. Mika Coretti, a cute forensic researcher, stumbles onto blah blah blah and hooks up with Raizo, an AWOL ninja trying to avenge the death of his blah and is being hunted relentlessly by his former blah blah blah. Feel free to fill in those blanks, but don’t spend too much time dwelling on it, because we all know you didn’t come here for a meaningful story.
Like anything the Wachowski Brothers touch, the action of Ninja Assassin has the same way-cool, real-life anime feel that they made famous a decade ago. The CGI is slathered on liberally (but I think effectively), allowing the ninjas to appear and disappear at will, melt into the shadows, and send buckets and buckets of blood spraying from their enemies.
The computer effects also help the movie take a sidestep out of reality. Ninja superpowers lose all credibility when you try and place them in the real world, the same way that this amount of viscera would be stomach churning at best (and offensively violent at worst) if anyone expected you to take it seriously. Instead, the gore is all candy apple red, brighter than anything else on the screen, in fact. It puts us instantly in the realm of comic books and Ninja Scroll, where everyone knows that secret clans of assassins are in cahoots with the federal government and it’s not surprising that a man can close a belly wound simply by thinking about it really hard.
Actually, given how much I enjoyed the action, it’s a shame how terrible the rest of Ninja Assassin really is. The film is almost intentionally one-dimensional, but if a little more consideration were given to the characters and why I should care about them, I think it would have elevated the experience to a whole different level. Maybe it was never going to be another Die Hard, but it had a definite shot at being another Bloodsport. As it is, we’re left with something a little less than that, like Judge Dredd or Conan the Destroyer. It’s not the biggest waste of your time, but you know there’s a better way to spend your afternoon.
- The letter full of black sand is neat.
- It’s just not laundry day without a fight to the death.
- That whole foot-whipping thing just looks painful.
- Considering Raizo is supposed to be the best assassin in thirty years or whatever, he sure gets his butt kicked a lot.
- Despite what I said about the violence being comic booky, that bathroom fight is still pretty intense.
- I like how the shuriken-covered car is parked nonchalantly outside the motel.
- Razio is played by Rain, a Korean pop star with no prior martial arts experience. Like many Hollywood martial artists, however, he is an accomplished dancer.
- J Michael Straczynski, of Babylon 5 fame, did a last-minute rewrite of the script.
- The relocation of the heart spoken about by the tattooist in the first scene is a real medical condition known as Situs Inversus.
Old Tattooist: You cannot bargain with it, you cannot reason with it. It is not a human being. It is a demon sent straight from hell.
Old Tattooist: For 57 years I’ve told your story and no one has ever believed me. But you’re real, aren’t you?
Ryan Maslow: Ninjas? You’ve got to be joking!
Mika Coretti: Well then why are you doing all this?
Ryan Maslow: I don’t know. But I can guarantee you it has nothing to do with the fact that you’re the most attractive researcher I have ever worked with.
Soldier: Sure doesn’t look like a killing machine to me, sir. He looks like he belongs in a boy band.
Raizo: This is not my family. You are not my Father. And the breath I take after I kill you will be the first breath of my life.
Ozunu: Weakness compels strength, betrayer begets blood; this is the Law of the Nine Clans.
If You Liked This Movie, Try These:
- Speed Racer
- The Shadow
- Sin City