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  Publicity Stills of
© 2009 Warner Bros

Genre: Action
Director: James McTeigue
Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles, Sho Kosugi, Rick Yune, Randall Duk Kim
RunTime: 1 hr 39 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: M18 (Strong Violence)
Official Website: http://ninja-assassin-movie.warnerbros.com/

Opening Day: 26 November 2009


Raizo is one of the deadliest assassins in the world. Taken from the streets as a child, he was transformed into a trained killer by the Ozunu Clan, a secret society whose very existence is considered a myth. But haunted by the merciless execution of his friend by the Clan, Raizo breaks free from them...and vanishes. Now he waits, preparing to exact his revenge. In Berlin, Europol agent Mika Coretti has stumbled upon a money trail linking several political murders to an underground network of untraceable assassins from the Far East. Defying the orders of her superior, Ryan Maslow, Mika digs into top secret agency files to learn the truth behind the murders. Her investigation makes her a target, and the Ozunu Clan sends a team of killers, led by the lethal Takeshi, to silence her forever. Raizo saves Mika from her attackers, but he knows that the Clan will not rest until they are both eliminated. Now, entangled in a deadly game of cat and mouse through the streets of Europe, Raizo and Mika must trust one another if they hope to survive...and finally bring down the elusive Ozunu Clan.

Movie Review:

One does not bring a firearm to a sword fight. It's a violation of the rules of engagement, exploited only by the cheap and the dishonourable. In this American fantasy tale of the exoticism of the Japanese ninja assassins, someone forgot to reiterate this to scribes Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski, and director James McTeigue decided to do just that, emulating Michael Bay in engaging para-military elements in a massive machine gun mow down of these stealthy warriors.

James McTeigue doesn't seem to find his footing as an action director, granted though that his previous film with the Wachowskis, V for Vendetta, featured (only) one very cool knife action sequence. One success story there doesn't translate to him being able to draw out any excitement in a series of action sequences here, and blame equally goes to the cinematographer in being handicapped at lighting up dark scenes properly, or the failure to know when to mount the camera on a tripod. The end result? A limited handful of scenes came through nicely framed, while most were a mess of inexplicable darkness where you cannot figure who's smacking who, or the camera bounces all over the place, or shooting the action too close.

So what does our filmmakers decide to do to compensate? Lots of glorious CG blood, and body parts dismemberment, from head to limbs, coupled with everything skin and muscle piercing from tattoos to slicing and dicing with sharp edges. It's an extremely violent film for the sake of, so much so that certain scenes did have to be snipped off a little here and there just to avoid the R21 rating locally.

The top draw then is Rain, the Korean hunky singer-actor sensation. Like many Asian counterparts, making it to Hollywood is a celebrated thing, and something about his role in Speed Racer made the Wachowskis sit up and take notice, making the decision to let him star in his own marquee movie, hence Ninja Assassin (never mind that Ninjas are Japanese though, since there have been American Ninja films out there already). Credit has to go to Rain for his discipline in keeping himself fat-free, with the film giving him plenty of time (with one staple training montage too) to show off those taut muscles where he spends almost half the film going around topless (likely to the delight of his female fandom), and the mastering of almost all of the action choreography as well.

Physically Rain can do no wrong, but like his countryman Jeon Ji-Hyun in Blood: The Last Vampire, they were equally let down by the bad storyline, here complete with laughable dialogue, and repetitive ones too about revenge, blood, violence, and family. I think you'll hear the word 'family' a zillion times in the film, since it's the favourite word of master ninja sifu Ozunu (Sho Kosugi), the chief baddie of the film who's Yoda like - old, but can teach any young upstart a thing or two, especially when executing his top ninjitsu move, the 6-pack Abs Pincher!

Rain's character Reizo happens to be an X-Men with mutant genes who fits right into Professor Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. If not for ninja-school, he might just undergo Weapon X transformation for that magical ability to heal oneself in double quick time. This of course means the hero is an indestructible (*yawn*) force to be reckoned with, and we know just how boring Superman can be. On the villainous end, we have hundreds of faceless, stealthy ninjas who come with one characteristic flaw, which is they can't keep their mouths shut to stay concealed within their hidden locations, preferring to whisper like ghosts hidden in shadows, and they do get a tad irritating in their mindless girly whispers. Then there's the frequent contradiction to their abilities, no thanks to the violation in the rules of engagement I already mentioned earlier. You can see about a mile away just how the villains would be taken down.

Ninja Assassin reminded me of a contemporary superhero film that tanked, and the narrative structure here is almost similar to Elektra, from the obligatory 'show-off-you-skills' introduction, to that hocus-pocus mythology, right down to those magical elements that don't quite make sense. The trailers might have made this look good, but frankly, it's an insult to any proper ninja film out there, especially with the final death scene.

Movie Rating:

(A Korean as a Japanese Ninja in an American movie gone horribly wrong)

Review by Stefan Shih


. G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra (2009)

. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)

. Speed Racer (2008)

. V For Vendetta (2005)

. Elektra (2005)

. The Fifth Commandment DVD (2008)


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