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Ninja Assasin

By Joe MacLeod | Posted 11/25/2009

Super-duper-blood-splatteriffic bloody ninja-sword mayhem with blood everywhere directed by the Andy and Larry Wachowski-produced V for Vendetta's James McTeigue with a great cold opening featuring an obnoxious Sung Kang (War, Fast and Furious) and world-weary Randall Duk Kim (The Keymaker from The Matrix Reloaded, another Wachowski enterprise; they also produce here and load the cast with alumni) but then interrupted again and again by way too much expository blah-blah-blah in what could have been kind of a stylish, tragic, romantic above-average martial arts drama with blood all over the place.

But still, ninjas, man, everywhere, coming out of the walls, the floor, the ceiling, crawling around in the dark, slicing people up, down, left and right, relentlessly pursuing Raizo, our hero, played by the ridiculously rock-star-beautiful Korean one-name pop star Rain (Speed Racer), a constant reminder of how many million sit-ups we'd need to do to squeeze into a ninja getup or spend as much time as he does without a shirt. Raizo endures a whole orphan/grasshopper/lethal weapon progression familiar to anyone who's logged any time with television's Kung Fu, but with way more brutality along the way, especially and graphically involving children (really not kidding with the "Rated 'R' for strong bloody stylized violence throughout") courtesy of ninja clan-leader drill-instructor paterfamilias Ozunu, played with all the gravitas in Asia by ninja-movie legend Shô Kosugi (Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination, Nine Deaths of the Ninja), whose granite-voice delivery and nihilistic pronouncements on pain, life, and family are alone worth the price of a ticket if you appreciate the martial-arts flicks, or appreciate not too seriously.

The torturous come-up backstory is important to develop the tale, we guess, and so there's a tender moment or two between Rain and a young love, but we were tapping our foot waiting for some ass-kicking, and the incongruous international cops stuff with Ben Miles (V for Vendetta, Speed Racer) and Naomie Harris (Miami Vice, Street Kings) keeps putting the brakes on the whole enterprise and is just so generally awful it seems like it was spliced in from another movie. But flinch-in-your-seat gore and CGI-overkill special effects aside, there are several hyperkinetic and interestingly shot fight sequences--this movie is called Ninja Assassin, so there fucking better be--and, most importantly, Rain summons up the kind of goggle-eyed berserker-rage facial expressions we haven't seen since Bruce Lee jumped up in the air and came down with two feet on that guy who pulled two broken bottles on him in Enter the Dragon. Ouch.

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