A much needed roundhouse kick of refreshment in the Ninja genre. Intense action, a good plot and some light humour make this a must see for any fan of hardcore action flicks. Especially if you like Ninjas.
Fantastic back story around how the Ninja's train their warriors. Excellent over the top visual FX help sell every action scene. As far as Ninja themed flicks go, there is a great mix of action, intense graphic violence and drama.
Some action scenes could have benefited from more wide shots. A few of the more dramatic dialogue exchanges were overly cheesy. A few lose ends that would have been nice to tie up or further explain that I won't reveal due to MAJOR spoilers. Not a huge deal though.
Let me start off by pointing out the logo for our website has a Ninja in it. We don't screw around when it comes to reviewing Ninja flicks and demand only the finest in stealthy bad ass action. Knowing this, you can imagine how high my expectations were for a movie titled "Ninja Assassin" that writes its logo in blood. A bold statement considering the lead actor is a Korean pop mega star.
To most North Americans whenever a pop idol steps onto the big screen and attempts to become a rough and tough action hero (e.g. Justin Timberlake as Green Lantern - Thankfully this idea was canned.), the idea is not only ridiculous, it's just wrong. Very wrong. However, here's a Korean pop star who simply calls himself "Rain" and manages to be perfectly plausible as the baddest, bloodiest, most hard core Ninja assassin mother f*cker on the planet.
I seriously applaud his role in this film and the training he underwent to make it. In fact, the entire theatre I was in applauded him at least five times during the movies 99 minuet run time. And I'm not talking about a few easily amused fanboys shouting "wooh!" No no my good sir. I'm talking about the entire sold out theatre with viewers young and old, male and female roaring with applause, cheers and whistles. Let us discuss why.
Ninja Assassin follows an orphan boy (Rain), who was taken from the streets as a very young child by a thousand year old Ninja society known as the Ozunu Clan whose existence is considered a myth. He is bestowed with the name Raizo and transformed into a ruthless killer along with an army of other orphans from a variety of races. The movie frequently inter-cuts between scenes of Raizo's youth in the brutal orphanage/ninja factory and the modern day ninja war that is taking place. In Berlin, Europol agent Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) stumbles upon a money trail linking several political murders to this ancient network of untraceable assassins. Unfortunately for her, this makes her a prime target for assassination. The Ozunu Clan sends a team of killers, led by the lethal Takeshi (Rick Yune), to silence Mika forever. Raizo, for his own honourable reasons, betrays his clan and saves Mika from her attackers, but knows that the Clan will not rest until they are both eliminated.
Whenever you start mixing certain characters and plots with modern urban city settings you have to be very careful. Things can get cheesy fast. It may not be a Ninja movie, but Predator 2 is a prime example of this. Kinda like McDonalds food, it got the job done but you felt like a dirty whore for enjoying it because deep down you knew it was wrong.
Ninja Assassin on the other hand does a wonderful job of giving you hardcore no BS action that mixes characters from very two different worlds in a way that exudes awesome. There are few things more rewarding then watching a team of highly trained tactical SWAT officers armed with SMG's, rifles, shotguns and pistols get messed up and diced into pieces by Ninjas. The way they use shadows to conceal and reveal Ninjas in this film is simply brilliant. You honestly believe that people could be trained to become that stealthy.
The action in this film is not for the gore sensitive. Less then three minuets into the movie a Ninja cuts a Yakuza looking gangster's head clean off at the mouth, leaving his tongue flapping in his now exposed throat and the top of his head on the floor. Eyes rolling and everything. The crazy thing is, this death was actually one of the more merciful ones in that scene.
Ninja Assassin is jam packed full of over the top intense action that punishes the viewer for blinking. You do not want to miss a split second of this movie because in that time someone could be cut in half in a ridiculous display of acrobatics. Honestly, I couldn't tell you where the actual stunt work and wire work ends and the CGI begins in most places, because the choreography is just seamless, and breathtaking. Which makes sense, since it's produced by The Wachowski Brothers and directed by their protégé, James McTeigue.
Now, as good as the cinematography and fighting is there are a few scenes where I felt like they got a little lazy and used a lot of close up shaky footage (Michael Bay Transformers Style). Fortunately there are plenty of wide angled and slow motion ass whoopings in this movie. There's even a scene that resembles the multi-zooming-slow-motion-single-shot mayhem found in the movie 300...BUT WITH NINJAS.
One of the other things that really sells this movie is the emotional relationships it builds. You actually care who dies, who survives, who is betrayed and what happens to each character. Sure, there's a few laughably cheesy dialogue exchanges between some of the characters, mainly between Raizo and his Ozunu Clan female ninja friend. But it's kind of believable that two people who were raised to do nothing but murder in sneaky ways from the age of four and now have feelings for each other might not have the best conversational skills.
If you're like me and have an affectionate soft spot for Ninja's, this movie is a must watch in theatres when it releases this November. Ninja Assassin is by far the best martial arts movie I've seen in a big theatre since The Matrix. I'm not saying the story is nearly as deep, but remember when you first saw bullet time? Imagine that one scene was 99 minuets long and had Ninjas. Go see this movie.