12/5/09

Review: Ninja Assassin (2009)


Ninja Assassin is probably in the realm of the most aptly titled films you will ever see. It is about an assassin, who is a ninja. For a ninja assassin movie, then, it at first feels a bit standard, but it moves fast and features spectacularly staged battles.

So, instead of demeaning it as paint-by-numbers, I'd rather compliment it as iconic. It's just about everything you could ask for in a ninja assassin movie, with not much extraneous. It's not too deep, but it's very satisfying.

The South Korean pop star Rain (cue Stephen Colbert yelling "Rain!") plays Raizo, an orphan raised by the Ozunu clan of ninja assassins to laugh at pain, heal quickly, be invisible and kill whomever they say. He learns all of his lessons well, except for the obedience part, which he never quite cottons to, especially where it concerns a fellow trainee who's also a bit of a rebel.

He's undercover in Berlin when an investigation into the clans brings pressure from the top of the government, as well as more pressure to take Raizo out for his disloyalty from the top of his clan.

The government investigator who won't let the ninja investigation die is played by Naomie Harris, who's pretty credible, if you can get past the part where she's obsessed with ninja history and connecting it with unsolved assassinations, and her character gives Raizo an opportunity to show off his ninja skills while sort of redeeming his failure to protect his childhood fellow trainee from reprisals after her attempt to leave the clan.

There are plenty of explosions and cool fight scenes, as expected from director James McTeigue, a Wachowski Brothers protégé who previously directed V for Vendetta, with last-second escapes and close calls in abundance.

Blood spatters everywhere, and very strikingly, sometimes with a comic-book brilliant red not justified by the lighting, sort of like in Sin City or Frank Miller's quite underrated The Spirit.

Two final ninja-on-ninja confrontations, with another clan trainee and the clan's ninja master (Shô Kosugi, quite winning) feel about right, though the grudge between Raizo and the trainee could have been a bit more convincingly or emphatically drawn.

Looking for a ninja assassin movie, or a quick action getaway which mostly won't trouble your brain? You could do a lot worse than Ninja Assassin. It's lots of fun.

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

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