Theatrical Review: Ninja Assassin

“Trained since childhood to be a lethal killer, Raizo has since turned his back on the Ozunu clan that raised him and now seeks revenge for their heartless murders. Teaming up with Europol investigator Mika, Raizo steadily butchers his enemies while inching ever closer to the long-awaited bloody reunion with his former master.”

That’s how the premise for the movie, Ninja Assassin reads over at IMDB, and really that’s it in a nutshell, and it’s one very entertaining film, especially if you’re a fan of big-ass over-the-top martial arts action- Ninja Assassin ups the ante in a very big way.

It’s the second movie from director James McTiegue (his first was V for Vendetta, who is also well-known for being the Wachowski Brothers Assistant Director on the Matrix movies, and the Wachowskis are certainly connected to this one as well, as film producers, along with long-time genre fan favorite writer J. Michael Straczynski, so this film already has a hell of a pedigree behind it.

And they really deliver the goods, with some very fast paced action and some solid characters that you can get behind. The biggest thing that I think it does though is it really makes a ninja something far more fearsome than what has been shown in film before, at least to me, where the term Ninja seems to have a set meaning but hasn’t really been taken to a full potential in a live action movie.

McTiegue’s influence from the Wachowski’s is certainly present, but in addition, again at least to me, he’s been watching Zack Snyder’s 300 as well, especially around one particular sequence that follows Raizo through a battle with a bunch of different ninjas, but going in different speeds with different camera zooms on the action (much like Leonidas charging into battle in 300)

Another Wachowski alumni appearing here though is Rain as Raizo. Rain was also in the Wachowski’s excellent Speed Racer and here he really gets to make a mark- he’s got a great screen presence, and just looks terrific in all of his action scenes. Also of note though is the legendary Sho Kusugi, who appears here as Ozuno, and is just as commanding as ever.

Really, Ninja Assassin is just a fun and extremely bloody good time, harkening back to a time when these sorts of movies were a little more plentiful, but upping the stakes, by just having a budget to take some of these things way farther than they’ve been taken in the past. I really hope this does well, as I’d certainly like to see a Ninja Assassin 2. Very much recommended…

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

29. November 2009 by Darren Goodhart
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