"Ninja Assassin": DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

3/21/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

"Ninja Assassin"

Directed by James McTeigue, written by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski, rated R, 99 minutes.

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

To call "V for Vendetta" director James McTeigue's sophomore feature gratuitous would be an overwhelming understatement. It's hard to come by a scene where someone isn't being gutted or dismembered in increasingly violent ways, limbs flying every which way and bright, cartoonish blood spraying every dry spot in a room. "Ninja Assassin" is, appropriately, about a ninja assassin named Raizo, who is on a vengeful journey to kill the man that made him the mad killing machine he is. It's one of the emptiest revenge stories ever committed to celluloid, and it's by far one of the worst films to come out of 2009.

Raizo is portrayed by South Korean pop singer Rain, who was hired by the Wachowski Brothers (who produced the film) after being impressed by his action film abilities in their film "Speed Racer." Funny that they found him so impressive when the scene in question was 90 percent computer generated, but that's beside the point. Rain is suitable enough for the role, but the character is so one-note that it wouldn't really matter who played him.

Raizo is kidnapped and raised from infancy in the Ozunu Clan, an age-old group that trains children to be cold-blooded ninja assassins. Raizo makes the mistake of falling in love with one of the only women in the clan, and when she attempts to escape and is subsequently killed, Raizo finds himself split between his fate in the Clan and his desire to leave and live a normal life in the real world. He eventually escapes and goes about the world murdering members of his former Clan, and eventually meets a Europol agent (Naomie Harris) investigating the group and joining forces with her when she becomes a target.

The plot is insanely incoherent, with new motives and personal histories popping up for the sake of convenience and characters randomly changing from allies to villains and back every few minutes. This isn't particularly surprising when you discover J. Michael Straczynski rushed out the screenplay in a little over two days. The whole thing would be partially forgivable if the film was made with the understanding that this is all campy nonsense, but there are so many pathetic attempts at profundity in the film that it appears they're taking the whole thing seriously.

Also incoherent are the action scenes, which are few and far between.  Still, when they do arise, they're almost all exactly the same and they're literally all between Raizo and a dozen or so ninjas dressed in black, and everytime in a nearly pitch-black room where hardly anything can be seen except the silver of shurikens and swords and the aforementioned shimmery pools of blood. Every action sequence follows one particular formula as well, I noticed this--Raizo fights ninjas, ninjas get upper-hand, Raizo jumps through window/off ledge/into traffic in slow motion, ninjas catch up to him, repeat. To call these sequences dreadfully boring would be generous.

The direction is generally competent, which is to be expected, as "V for Vendetta" was rather well-made. The primary difference between that film and "Ninja Assassin" is that there was a purpose to the violence, it served as a catharsis for its protagonist, whose motives were entirely understandable and whose character arc was believable from frame one. That is definitely not the case here, and it almost brings to question the legitimacy of "Vendetta"'s brilliance--was the film good solely because of the source material? Is McTeigue just another director in the long line of those who hold style over substance?

Whatever the case, McTeigue (as well as the Wachowskis) have really taken a step down with this one. It's a wild mess, and it commits the worst crime a messy film can make--it completely lacks entertainment. It's an overly violent, unintelligible bore.

Grade: D

View the trailer for "Ninja Assassin" below.  Thoughts?

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  1. Free movies online said...

    Dang, i like this movie very much.. so many actions. although some part just so unrealistic, still man you never tire of those ninja stuffs