Written by: Matthew Sand & J. Michael Straczynski, based on a story by Sand
Directed by: James McTeigue
Starring: Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles, Sho Kosugi, Rick Yune
My Advice: Matinee if a fu fanatic, small screen acceptable.
Mika (Harris) has a particular investigative passion: she’s convinced that there’s an extremely powerful conspiracy in the world, designed to keep a number of ancient ninja clans hidden from the rest of us. Why? Because they’re very useful for, you know, killing people in particularly quick and nasty ways. She convinces colleague Maslow (Miles) that she’s on to something, but about that time one of the aforementioned quick and nasty ninjas, Raizo (Rain), shows up–and all hell breaks loose.
[ad#longpost]As I said in my Wayhomer Review of the film, I thought myself fairly well prepared for what to expect. It looked like mindless action fun with lots of asskicking and death being dealt–which I was totally fine with and looking forward to. However upon learning that Sho Kosugi, legendary fu actor, was playing the boss heavy, I realized what we were dealing with here was a 1980s ninja flick re-envisioned–with additional gore and CG–for the 21st century. Which, again, I was completely fine with.
But the other main idea they’ve brought to the table is “What if we did an Aliens or Predator movie but instead we used Ninjas?” When you see SWAT team guys (or whatever you call the Interpol equivalents) getting wasted by unseen attackers hiding above them, or yanking them up into the rafters to slice and dice them, you half expect somebody to start coating themselves with mud or something.
The story is preposterous. But that’s par for the course for these sorts of films. The action is convenient–i.e., throwing stars appear to hit their targets with the accuracy of heat-seeking shuriken…that is, unless the targets happen to be important characters who can’t die yet. The fights are fairly impressive–and you can actually tell what’s happening most of the time. It only creaks when dialogue becomes anything other than “Before I kick your ass, there is one thing I must tell you…”
But the thing is: if you go to a movie called Ninja Assassin –mayhem is what you signed up for. If you expected Crouching Tiger, then please check your meds. And of course, mayhem is what the film does best.
Rain apparently inspired the film via his fight sequences in the gloriously flawed Speed Racer. And he got his start as a pop singer–which just speaks volumes to how well he sells himself as a hardass, since at one point he’s doing vertical push-ups on a bed of nails. Harris does extraordinarily well with the part she’s handed as does Ben Miles–and I say again it’s weird to see a star of Coupling with a machine gun. (I guess if they chase pirates, I’m cool with that. I don’t know.) And Sho Kosugi is…very Sho Kosugi. There’s not much else one can say.
This film is not for everyone. Anyone with a mind towards mindless action will enjoy it. Anyone who can clue into the very retro-80s-fu undercurrent will enjoy it even more–as I did. Just don’t expect too much. And I would say matinee it if you must see it on the big screen, but like most 80s fu, the small screen will work just fine.