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Ninja Assassin
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Movie Details

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Directed By
James McTeigue

Written By:
J. Michael Straczynski, Matthew Sand

Naomie Harris, Rain, Randall Duk Kim, Sung Kang, Rick Yune, Guido Föhrweißer, Sho Kosugi, Ben Miles, Togo Igawa, Stephen Marcus, Alexander Yassin, Kylie Goldstein, Yuki Iwamoto, Yuki Iwamoto, Richard van Weyden, Eleonore Weisgerber, Wladimir Tarasjanz, Numan Acar, Hoang Dang-Vu, May Scheffel, Thorston Manderlay

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Ninja Assassin (2009)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
December 2nd, 2009

Pardoning what is possibly the intentional redundancy of the title, 'Ninja Assassin' is a goofy, mostly incomprehensible film that you will either love or hate depending on your mood, and your affinity for over-the-top action flicks. I happen to love many of them, but this one struck a sour note with me and I am not sure why. I simply did not enjoy it. It descends almost from the start into senseless blood-drenched carnage, but in doing so, it becomes an utterly aimless, unsatisfying mess.

Lead role is played by Rain, a Korean pop star who previously appeared in 2008's Speed Racer, but is still relatively unknown outside of Asia. He is Raizo, who was trained to be a ruthless killer and martial arts expert, enduring years of physical abuse at the hands of his tyrannical master, Ozunu (Sho Kosugi). Now an adult, he seeks revenge against Ozuno, who, of course, has a lot of minions Raizo must slice his way through. He comes out of hiding in order to protect the pretty Europol agent Mika (Naomie Harris), who is investigating the Ozunu clan and its connection to a series of political assassinations.

One of Ozunu's main henchmen, Takeshi (Rick Yune) arrives to silence Mika. Raiko rushes to her defense, still feeling guilty that he was unable to save the girl he loved, Kiriko, and seeing this as a chance for atonement. Or something like that. Director James McTeigue made his debut with the brilliant and provocative V for Vendetta back in 2005. This is a far less memorable endeavor.

McTeigue is trying to emulate the style of both Tarantino and the Wachowskis, or the dizzying choreography of The Matrix with the ultra-violence of Kill Bill, with plenty of dismemberments and arterial sprays, but the gore effects are blatantly, insultingly fake, and nearly numbing in their gratuity. That may be part of the charm, but at least Tarantino made it appear more realistic. I was continuously taken out of the experience, not being able to follow anything happening onscreen, and not caring, in the slightest, about Raizo's quest for vengeance.

As a protagonist, he is boring, drained entirely of charisma, and wandering through scenes like a zombie, an emotional blank slate. The movie is set in Berlin, features a predominantly Asian cast, and has all of its characters speaking English, even though some of the actors obviously do not speak it very well. Why not allow them the courtesy of subtitled dialogue? This is a thoroughly Americanized production, intended for American audiences, and will likely get a cold reception elsewhere. Harris acquits herself admirably, despite the asinine dialogue she is forced to spew, and gives the only performance worth mentioning.

Rain does have a certain sex appeal, which is capably exploited here, as he is shirtless on several occasions, shirtless, sweaty, and covered in red liquid. If anything, it does excel with its impressively loud and immersive sound design, in which the incessant clanging of metal weapons colliding with one another helps to alleviate the outstanding monotony of everything else.

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Mike Thomas
Sep 25, 2010 11:13 PM
I'm watching this right now, and your review is dead-on.

I've always compared good martial arts movies to good porn - dull, lifeless act-ing put there only to fill in the gaps between the act-ion. Naomi Harris does her best "Rae Dawn Chon" as the hapless side-kick caught in a situation that's WAY over her head, and provides the only humanity (and humor) in the movie.

It's good that some of us can give an intelligent review, even a bad one without dumbing it down.

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