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.

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2008)

I’m Not a Psy-cho.  I’m a Cy-borg.

Samrizon made the request for today’s movie a pretty good amount of time ago, but I just didn’t feel like I wanted to watch it, even though it’s available on Netflix streaming.  A good portion of the reason I didn’t want to watch it is because it’s a foreign film, and I hate reading whether there’s moving pictures accompanying it or not.  It also seemed pretentious, and I usually just get annoyed by movies like that.  But it was a request to be certain, so it was going to happen eventually, whether I wanted to or not.  I finally decided to sit down and try to read my way through a movie called I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, written by Jeong Seo-kyeong, co-written and directed by Park Chan-wook, and starring Im Soo-jung, Rain, Dal-su Oh, Su-jeong Lim, Choi Hie-jin, Lee Yong-nyeo, Yu Ho-jeong, and Kim Byeong.

A young Korean factory worker girl named Young-goon (Im Soo-jung) hears transmissions that lead her to believe that she’s a cyborg.  It’s unknown at this point whether or not that’s acceptable.  She also believes that she’s low on power, so she cuts her wrist and puts a power cord into the wound, plugging it in and almost killing herself.  She’s taken to a mental institution where she speaks only to appliances and listens only to her radio, which tells her what she must do to be a better cyborg.  She also refuses to eat, believing that it would cause her to break down, and sustains herself by licking batteries.  She also meets a young man named Il-sun (Rain), who is antisocial and a kleptomaniac, believing he can steal personality traits from people while he’s wearing any number of homemade rabbit masks.  The other people in the institution hate him for him stealing things from them, but this actually helps him, as he believes he’ll shrink to the size of a dot if people stop paying attention to him.  He starts to develop a sort of crush on Young-goon and tries to help her reunite with her institutionalized grandmother.

I found myself completely spellbound by this for the first bulk of the movie.  Not so much by how good of a movie it was, but just by how friggin’ crazy balls it was.  It’s a super quirky and goofy movie, but very little of it struck me as funny.  I would say it was largely amusing though and, by the end, found that I actually enjoyed it.  But I didn’t enjoy it for its quirkiness; I enjoyed it for the romantic story.  It wasn’t a typical love story, but it was a really sweet and innocent relationship that develops between Young-goon and Il-sun.  With their mental states, it’s almost like watching two young children fall in love, as if I was watching a Korean version of My Girl on LSD.  With the quirkiness comes a great deal of imagination, and that’s pretty evident in almost all aspects of the movie.  I’ve seen a lot of movies, but I don’t think I’ve seen a movie like this before.  I would say that my enjoyment of the movie was probably hindered by the fact that it’s a foreign movie.  I know most purists hate to think of watching a movie in anything other than its natural language, but I really wish I had been able to watch the movie dubbed instead of subtitled.  I just don’t read fast enough (or pay enough attention to things) to keep up with a really verbose foreign drama/comedy.  Most of the foreign movies I’ve seen are martial arts movies, and you can usually get by just fine in those movies without reading any of the dialogue at all.  But I was able to get by on the story of this movie anyway.  I guess if the majority of the things that the characters are saying are completely nuts, you can miss a line or two.  And the look of it successfully captured my attention anyway.  The movie is very colorful and cheerful looking, even when the scene might not have been.  They also made good use of computer generated images, like the opening credit sequence with the cool gears turning like a mechanical version of the X-Men movie opening.  A similar look showed up later when Il-sun installed a rice conversion tool into Young-goon.  I also thought it was a nice idea to have Young-goon show how much charge she had with the little lights on her toes.  When she turned into a robotic death machine, it was interesting, but typically goofy.  That’s what they were going for though, so I guess that’s okay.  I also had a problem with the look in that they kept zooming in on crazy gibberish early on in the movie that I assume they figured I would be able to read, but Netflix didn’t feel the need to translate them.

The performances were mostly over the top, but they were trying to play mental patients, so you really can’t say they should have toned it down.  Im Soo-jung was really cute in her role, typically acting as you would expect a cyborg to act and mostly seemed to not really understand or be interested in the things going on around her.  I also thought Korean pop singer Rain did a good job as Il-soon.  The only other time I had seen this guy was when he was in Ninja Assassin, and he wasn’t playing anywhere near that character in this movie.  I thought he had the most moments of comedy that actually worked for me, like when he would walk down the hall like Dr. Zoidberg for no particular reason.  He also played the character really earnest and childlike, and I found him really endearing.

I got off to a rough start with I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, but that was really more my own problems than theirs.  Once I got over the bitterness I feel over having to read a movie, I got taken in by the movie’s imagination and quirkiness, and then got to feel that the love story was really sweet and innocent.  All of the performances of the crazy people were good, but I particularly liked the two main performances from Im Soo-jung and Rain.  Even though you’ll have to read it – or understand Korean – I think this is a sweet movie and worth watching.  Check it out on Netflix streaming.  I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK gets “Sweet” out of “Psycho.”

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.