Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

My initial bitch about this movie ‘Ninja Assassin’, that is outside of the fact that the title seems redundant, has nothing to do with the movie itself but the theater that I saw it at with some friends of mine. So it’s the opening weekend for the movie and if there was a critics screening I blew it off to watch this movie with my boys. We go down to the Emagine Theater in a Detroit suburb which is a very nice theater, complete with a cash bar, with like a zillion screens. The Emagine showed ‘Ninja Assassin’ absolutely no respect as we got shunted off to the zillionth level theater in this megaplex, which would be the equivalent of the theaters garage with a screen slightly larger than the 37inch LCD in my bedroom and a sound system slightly worse than my Pioneer surround system in my living room. I realize that they had to dedicate 850 of their thousand or so movie screens to ‘New Moon’ as tween girls and sexually ambiguous men trek back to view that flick for the 8th time, but I was hoping for a little better presentation for this movie, in what was its opening week. No love for Ninja Assassin as the gay pirate loving, shirtless vampire adoring demographic has let me down yet again.

Anyway Korean pop star Rain is Raizo, a rouge Ninja looking for revenge. Basically that’s all there really is to this movie and we could stop there with a description if we so chose because that’s about as deep as it goes, but we will soldier on with some of the periphery fluff that brackets the relentless bloodletting in this movie. Part of this fluff involves a forensic researcher for the Europol law enforcement agency named Mika (Naomie Harris) who has somehow uncovered evidence of the existence of Ninja’s, who have been pulling off high profile assassinations for the last couple thousand years. Her boss Maslow (Ben Miles) is intrigued by the wacky theories that his crazy hot researcher has shunted his way and allows her to pursue them, but Ninja’s apparently really don’t like folks looking into their business and it’s just a matter of time before Mika is Marked for Death!

Raizo, however, isn’t about to let that happen as he comes to Mika’s rescue in between working out a lot, having a crap load of flashbacks about how he became a ninja in the first place, and seriously thinning out the ninja population. Big fight sequences will follow and a big time showdown will close out the show. Roll credits.

I don’t what anyone else would expect walking into the multiplex and viewing a movie calling itself ‘Ninja Assassin’ but director James McTeigue’s film pretty much wholly delivered what I expected going into a movie calling itself ‘Ninja Assassin’. Some cat got partially decapitated in almost the movies first frame which clearly lets you know what kind of movie we’re in for, and thusly gives you the choice of either walking out of the theater, or sitting back and enjoying the non-stop action filled, overly violent, CGI blood splattering show. The narrative supporting the blood-letting is threadbare at best but it does serve its purpose of connecting the action sequences to one another, and the movie does hum along fast enough to keep one from thinking about the various plot holes in this threadbare narrative, at least while the movie is rolling. If you want to discuss the flaws in the movies narrative after its all over and done with then have at it, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.

One of the early complaints that I had heard about this particular movie before it was released was the casting of Rain as our super badass, considering he is a pop star by trade and not a martial artist. I guess this would be similar to casting Justin Timberlake as the new John Rambo which might not fly too well, but unlike Justin, I’ve never seen Rain the Pop Star in action so I didn’t have an issue with the man as a super Ninja badass, with this believability assisted by the fact that dude is one athletically fit sonofabitch and the believability factor is also pushed forward by the some fancy camera work McTiegue and crew used to sell us on the martial arts action. The cherry on top for us would be the mere presence of one Sho Kosugi who hasn’t beenin  a movie in an awful long time and we are pleased to see his return.

Though we did enjoy ‘Ninja Assassin’ for what it was there were still some issues. Some of the action sequences were so choppy that it was hard to make out what was going on, and the bravura Ninja vs. Commando in the basement sequence could’ve used just a ‘little’ more light to help us see what’s was going on. And if Ninja’s are only invincible in the dark, one would’ve thought that super tough Europol commandos might’ve invested a few dollars into a backup generator. The movie also continues a long standing tradition in western movies of emasculating tough Asian dudes who never, never, ever get any ass. Western tough guys in action flicks always find time squeeze in some fun with the pretty female lead but not Asian tough guys who only focus in on killing folks. Plus Rain and Ms. Harris had a little chemistry between them so one would’ve hoped our ninja would’ve at least found the time to kiss the pretty girl, but alas tough, ass kicking Asian dudes apparently do not like sex with pretty girls.  Go figure.

Still ‘Ninja Assassin’, at least in my opinion, was a fine action flick that did sacrifice logic while substituting this logic with severed limbs and blood splatter. Hopefully if you get to see this movie you’ll get better presentation than I got at the theater I went to, and if not then wait till it comes out on DVD since you probably have better stuff at home than the shoddy presentation theaters are giving this poor little action movie.

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