Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Ninja Assassin - Lots Of Sizzle, No Steak


Review by Patrick Hodges

I grew up in the 1980’s, when movies about ninjas were so commonplace they could almost be called a fad.  There were ninjas of all kinds:  Asian ninjas, American ninjas, kid ninjas, even ninjas that were teenage mutant turtles.  (What was the name of that one again?)

Most of those movies were bad (though some were bad in a GOOD way, if you follow me), and should probably stay in the 80’s.  They were campy, poorly acted, and definitely aimed at a younger crowd.  Ninja Assassin, the first film in many a year with a “ninja” theme, is definitely NOT for kids, as it involves an inordinate amount of violence, blood and gore.

Given that this movie was directed by James McTeigue, who helmed one of my all-time favorite films, V For Vendetta, a few years ago, and given that it was co-produced by the Wachowski Brothers, who were responsible for the ground-breaking Matrix series, I expected terrific effects, great fight scenes and an intriguing story.  Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

Korean actor/singer Rain plays Raizo, who was kidnapped as a child and trained by the ruthless Ozunu (Sho Kosugi) to be a top-notch assassin.  We learn this, through a series of flashbacks, which culminates in a young Raizo falling for a kind-hearted girl meeting a predictable end.  After that, Raizo goes on the run from his old clan, vowing to hunt down and dismember everyone associated with the Ozunu clan that he comes across.

The fight scenes are terrific, with a lot of high-flying martial action and the whirr of exotic weapons, including this cool-looking blade-on-a-chain thing that Raizo is extremely adept with.  There are severed limbs aplenty, and buckets-o-blood splashed across the screen. 

The story, however, is a complete letdown.  When Raizo teams up with a pretty investigator (Naomie Harris), who becomes a target for assassination after kicking over the wrong rock, the plot just completely loses any steam.  The rest of the movie is basically just an excuse to go from fight scene to fight scene, which it does.  The couple sitting next to me were laughing uproariously the whole movie, it was that ridiculous.

If you like style with little or no substance, you might enjoy this movie.  If you enjoy great action AND great characters, watch 300 again.  There’s just as much gore, and it also has a better story, better characters and much better catch-phrases.

3 / 5 stars

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