Ninja Assassin (2009)


The Breath I Take After I Kill You Will Be the First Breath of My Life.

Today’s movie was requested by Christie Moscoscomosco.  Today, her Asianness took control of her and caused this request.  It’s a movie that I’ve seen before and currently own on BluRay, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything in regards to my feelings about it.  I took a gamble with this movie.  I had not seen it when I purchased it.  I looked at the two words that made up the title to the movie and said, “This seems like it’d be for me.”  The first word was right in my wheelhouse, and I’ve looked to try to find a really awesome movie about this group of people that I had not yet found.  And the second word is usually something I’m down for as well.  Do these two great tastes taste great together?  We’ll find out as I review Ninja Assassin, written by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski, directed by James McTeigue, and starring Rain, Naomie Harris, Sho Kosugi, Anna Sawai, Rick Yune, Ben Miles, Joon Lee, Randall Duk Kim, and Sung Kang.

Orphans are taken in by Lord Ozuna (Sho Kosugi) of the Ozuna Clan of ninja to undergo brutal training to become the world’s deadliest assassins.  One notable orphan is Raizo (Rain), notable because … he’s the hero of the movie, I guess…  Raizo develops a romantic bond with a kunoichi named Kiriko (Anna Sawai), who is far too nice to be a very good ninja.  She attempts to escape the clan despite Raizo’s pleas and is caught and killed by Raizo’s Ozuna brother Takeshi (Rick Yune).  This action loosens Raizo’s bond with his clan, eventually erupting in him trying to kill Lord Ozuna and inflicting heavy casualties on the clan before eventually being injured and left for dead.  In present day, Europol agent Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) has been investigating political assassinations that she believes leads back to the Ozuna.  Getting too close, the Ozuna send an assassin after her, but Raizo saves her.  Together they will try to … uh … kill a lot of ninjas…?

For all I said about the title of the movie in the first paragraph, it actually made me nervous about the movie.  With a title as bland as Ninja Assassin, your movie will really have to set itself up as pretty spectacular to overcome it.  This movie did not do that.  It’s fine, but it had much less impact on me than a movie about ninjas should have.  I love ninjas!  But this movie was about half martial arts movie, have love story.  It spends a whole lot of time getting us caught up on Raizo’s story and doesn’t actually jump fully into the story of this movie until about halfway in.  I know we need a little bit of backstory, but the movie makes no forward momentum until Raizo gets together with Mika, and even then they don’t move forward very much.  They try to keep us interested in Raizo’s upbringing by mixing it with ninja glory shots of Raizo training with various weapons in his apartment, but you probably could’ve had the same effect by actually making him fight people for a reason than just scenes of “Look what this guy can do with this knife on the end of a string!”  And I have the same question about this movie as I’ve had with similar movies in the past, but what makes Raizo so much better than the hundreds of Ozuna brethren that he slaughters?  He received the same training as them, and they arguably should be better because they continued to train with the clan well after Raizo departed, but the greater majority of them are just blood-filled fodder for him as he hacks his way to either Takeshi or Lord Ozuna, who are the only two people that can make him put in any effort.  But I guess I can’t really judge as I’m the one who’s so immature that I saw a German sign in the movie that said “Ausfahrt” and I started to giggle.

So there really wasn’t much to the story of this movie, but I can’t imagine they were trying that hard.  This movie really does feel like it was written after they had already filmed the action scenes and were told they needed to hold that together with a story.  But even the action is kind of disappointing.  A lot of it is solid, and most of it tended towards being very stylized, but with as weak a story as this movie had, it really should’ve had a lot more spectacular action.  I guess part of the problem was that they seemed really intent on showing how cool the ninja ability to disappear into the shadows and be cloaked in darkness was.  This is something that needs to come along with a ninja movie, but the problem is that if you’re doing it well, the audience probably can’t see most of what’s going on.  Like the scene when Mika is trying to see Raizo and another ninja fighting in an apartment, and she keeps trying to get the flashlight on them to see what’s happening but can only catch glimpses of what is probably an epic battle.  I imagine this is what two ninja fighting would look like, but I have to use my imagination because the movie isn’t showing me anything.  When you could see, the martial arts were never really all that impressive and they seemed to rely more on gore, which they had a lot of.  Lots of CG red paint and body parts flying around in this movie, but only about two fights in the movie seemed like anything cool was happening.  I liked most of the final fight, especially the part where it’s shown in silhouettes through a paper wall that occasionally got splattered with red blood, but that fight’s ending was boring.  They had this big martial arts duel until Raizo got upset about something, then he just disappears and a black shadow makes the other guy’s body parts fall off.  Then it’s just over.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the performances in this movie.  They were fine.  They didn’t blow any minds, but that probably would’ve been a waste of time when there were some more buckets of blood to fling at the screen.  Rain did a fairly good job in the movie.  At first I was just thinking that he was going to have a really hard time pulling off “badass” and “intimidating” when he was so gangnamed pretty, but I think he did as much as he could.  Sho Kosugi did plenty enough badass and intimidating for the both of them, so I wasn’t really worried about it.  Naomie Harris didn’t bring anything to mind in regards to her performance, but I did spend a lot of time trying to figure out why she looked familiar when I watched the movie the first time.  I eventually figured out that it was because she played Tia Dalma in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.  Then I spent the rest of the movie trying to figure out how she looked so much hotter to me when she looked dirty, sweaty, and had really bad teeth in the Pirates movies than she did as just a normal, pretty girl.  Then I realized that I have mental issues and I moved on with my day.

When the name of your movie is as boring as Ninja Assassin, you really need to bring it in the action department.  No one is going into your movie with high hopes about story and performances, but that action must be top notch.  And when I refer to top notch action, I don’t mean a couple of decent fights and lots of fake blood thrown around the set.  It’s the difference between a “Scary Movie” and a “Slasher Film”.  One actually intimidates the audience with suspense; the other just makes the audience queasy with lots of red corn syrup.  Altogether this movie was okay and maybe worth a rental if you’re in the mood, but there are better ways to spend your time.  You can skip it.  Ninja Assassin gets “Weakness compels strength.  Betrayal begets blood” out of “I’ll tattoo the ceiling with your fucking brains!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

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