Friday, December 17, 2010

"Ninja Assassin" (2009)

Starring Rain, Naomi Harris, and Ben Miles
Written by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by James McTeigue

Whenever someone asks me "Ninja or pirate?" I have to reply ninja.  Ninjas are just fucking cool, yo.  At least, they're supposed to be.

"Ninja Assassin," brought to us by the makers of "The Matrix" and "V For Vendetta," somehow manages to make ninjas not that cool.  It should be easy as hell, but they just try too hard.

Mika (Naomi Harris) is a forensic researcher for "Europol," some kind of European law enforcement agency based in Berlin, Germany.  She's somehow managed to uncover a money trail linking various high-profile assassinations with, um, well, these mythical ninja clans that aren't supposed to exist.  Her boss, Maslow (Ben Miles) tells her to be careful.  But, of course, she decides to just keep on going.  This leads her to come to the attention of the ninja clans, who decide she must be eliminated.  She's rescued by Raizo (Rain), a former member of the Ozunu Clan.  

Raizo tells her that she's been targeted by the clans, and so has he.  Maslow manages to capture Raizo, but not long after, the Europol safe house is attacked and destroyed by the ninjas.  Raizo is wounded in the escape, but he and Mika manage to make it out alive... but not for long.  Mika plants a tracking device in Raizo and the ninjas capture him and bring him before Lord Ozuno (Sho Kusogi), his former master. 

The plot of "Ninja Assassin" is nonsense.  I couldn't tell you why any of this junk is happening, it just does.  The dialogue is just as bad.  Mika, supposedly a glorified legal secretary, somehow manages to uncover evidence of the money trail of ancient ninja assassin clans.  Yeah.  So really, nothing makes any particular sense in "Ninja Assassin."  But that's not why anyone watches a movie called "Ninja Assassin," right?  No, everyone watches a movie called "Ninja Assassin" because they want to see, well, ninja assassins.  And they want to see said ninja assassins fucking shit up.  

Is that what happens in "Ninja Assassin"?  Somewhat.  The action sequences are decently directed, but they lack a certain "wow" factor.   Director McTiege loads them up with so much phony CG blood that it's almost ridiculous.  Characters seem to lose gallons of blood from minor wounds, and then recover from them almost instantly.  The ninjas are bestowed with super-human powers, but none of it is ever explained or given context.  And why, oh why, is it that whenever multiple ninjas are in the room is the soundfield of the film FILLED with loud whispering?  These ninjas are supposed to operate with extreme stealth.  Why are they whispering so constantly and so loudly?

"Ninja Assassin" had a lot of potential to be plain, badass fun.  But instead, it's just kind of stupid.  The ninjas aren't dealt with the respect they deserve, the plot is nonsense and the characters are paper-thin.  I suppose there are worse ways to spend an hour and forty minutes, but I can't really recommend this one.