Friday, November 27, 2009

Ninja Assassin

"Betrayal begets blood."

Ninja Assassin is an action packed adrenaline fueled adventure if there every was one. As expected it was also big on the blood and action element of the ninja lifestyle. Surprisingly the plot was actually remarkably serviceable for a movie with such a spectacularly cheesy title. 

The movie opens with something of a showcase of the ninjas abilities and something of a taste of things to come. A gang of loudmouth Yakuza are lounging around a bar having fun when an envelope full of black sand is delivered to the head honcho. Seconds later bodies are being sliced in half, limbs are being severed left and right, and copious amounts of blood are being splattered across the walls. Next we cut to the backbone of the story here, in that a couple of investigators working for Europol (of all the multinational investigative services in the world they picked Europol, I am at a loss) have begun to suspect that several assassinations over the past thousand or so years have been conducted by a secret society of ninjas. A little on the cheesy side, but that's acceptable. Interwoven with their investigation are glimpses into the life of Raizo, clearly a ninja, but perhaps not a member of the deadly assassin society. Throughout a series of flashbacks we learn that Raizo was raised by the clan and taught to be a ninja, but after his first real kill decided it wasn't for him and left (in a rather bloody brawl as you may imagine). Raizo wants the head of the clan and he's willing to work with the Europol agents to do it. Will any of them survive this somewhat suicidal mission, will Raizo get his revenge? The answers make for a reasonably entertaining, and rather exciting, 90 minutes.

Usually I would talk a bit about the acting and casting at this point. Well there wasn't much acting on display in the movie, which actually doesn't hurt it all that much. Why? Well because this a movie about ninjas, the quintessential strong silent types. If nothing else the actors all look the part. Especially the leading role of Raizo (played by Rain) who brings the whole movie up a notch with his somewhat withdrawn, but none the less imposing, presence. Naomie Harris and Ben Miles on the other hand, were not all that convincing as Europol agents. Ben Miles in particular comes across more as an accountant than a field agent. Not the best casting choice there I think.

I'm not sure where the concept for the movie comes from. I will, however, say that if you treat this movie as if it is a comic book, you will get much more enjoyment out of it. The excessive amount of blood on display immediately made me think of Punisher: War Zone, not a terribly good movie, but a pretty decent comic book adaptation. Well, the stunts on display in this movie are incredible, and the martial arts look great, but the whole experience is ramped up to the extent that it just doesn't look real anymore. It does look terrific on screen, but there is a sense of detachment from reality, something that can only be resolved by placing the story firmly in the domain of comic-book-land. Is this a bad thing? Depends on your opinion of comic book movies I guess. Personally I rather liked it, I don't imagine I'll be rushing out to see it again, nor will I be adding it to my DVD collection, but overall I thought it was a pretty entertaining 90 minutes and I have no regrets about spending the money to see it.

The only flaw I can really pick with the movie is that our leading man Raizo is made out ot be something of a Terminator, the guy just can't be killed. At various points in the movie he shrugs off wounds that seem to kill every other ninja he comes into contact with. Again though, if you put on your comic book glasses the idea of superhuman heroes is a pretty easy sell.

So to sum up, Ninja Assassin is not winning any awards for best picture anytime soon, nor does it have a great screenplay. What the movie does have is really beautiful martial arts coupled with a plot that actually does make sense. If you have a some time and money to spare, there are far worse movies you could see than Ninja Assassin, give a shot, just be sure to leave the kids at home.

Final Verdict on Ninja Assassin

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