Directed by James McTeigue (who’s known for “V for Vendetta,” by far a better movie), “Ninja Assassin” won’t be on anybody’s Top 10 list, but it’s a good action movie, and a really good ninja movie.
While some critics said of it, “It’s an overly violent, unintelligible bore” and “so lacking in personality or punch,” they must have been watching a different movie. It’s no more violent than any other modern-day action movie, though it is more gory in places. “Boring” it is not; the action is spine-tingling. And it’s full of “personality.”
The plot centers around two Europol agents who stumble upon the trail of an ancient society of assassins, and the one ninja who escaped that clan and is now fighting against them.
It is overly bloody (which some critics mistakenly called “overly violent” — that’s not the same thing), and the blood is too heavily saturated and too bright red to be natural. It reminded me of “Sin City” and “The Spirit” with this odd colorization (the movie was produced by the Wachowski Brothers, who also made the oddly colored “Speed Racer”). I had to take points off for this amateurish trend-following.
But the fight scenes are evenly spaced with exposition and dialogue, giving the audience time to rest and catch its breath. The choreography of the fights is excellent almost throughout, with just a couple of exceptions: in at least two scenes, the “bad guys” are barely moving while the hero contorts and attacks multiple assailants. This is consistent with martial arts movies throughout history, but it’s especially evident in this one because of some extreme slow-motion shots.
The cinematography added to the mood of the movie, except in one scene where it was distracting. Near the end of the movie, there’s a fight scene where a dozen or more ninjas (including our hero) race out into traffic, still fighting. The camera was apparently only inches away from each ninja, so close and jerky that no one in the theater could tell what was happening. The sound effects were the only thing telling us what was going on, for at least 20 seconds. I took off points for that too. If you can’t correctly film a scene, then don’t put it in the movie.
One thing that was spot-on throughout was the acting. I was especially impressed with Rain, a South Korean pop singer, dancer, model, actor, businessman, and designer. He was perfect for this role, showing intense emotion with just a movement of his eyes or a slight change in body language. Eyes widened in the audience during a scene that shows him exercising; his physique was perfectly toned.
The music was also well-done, lending itself to the fight scenes in particular. There is also a scene in the ninja school, where the ninjas-in-training are supposed to be sleeping: a combination of slight camera movements and barely audible music was oddly sensuous, though everyone was fully clothed and nobody was moving. You have to see it to understand.
Overall, this film is for action-movie buffs, lovers of martial arts movies, or any jaded movie-goer looking for something different. I do recommend seeing it on the big screen, if only for the dramatic final fight sequence.
IMDb: Ninja Assassin
Wikipedia: Ninja Assassin
(for strong bloody stylized violence throughout, and language)
Length: 99 min. (1:39)
Director: James McTeigue
Genre: martial arts / action / crime / thriller
My Rating: 7 of 10
Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles, Kylie Goldstein, Anna Sawai, Sho Kosugi