There’s something inherently cool about ninjas, they way they quietly stalk through the night and stick to the shadows before they launch their lethal surprise attack on their unsuspecting victims. They are calm, collected and unemotional, seeing their victims as just another bloody notch on their belt. This inherent coolness is ever present in the new Wachowski brothers produced gore-fest, Ninja Assassin and although it can be fun at times, it’s stylish action scenes can’t make up for its utter lack of anything resembling a story.
Like Snakes on a Plane and the straight to DVD guilty pleasure Zombie Strippers before it, Ninja Assassin is a movie that you watch based on the title alone. It is so succinct that you walk in knowing exactly what you’re getting. With Snakes on a Plane, you got a plane full of snakes. With Zombie Strippers, you got strippers who were zombies. With Ninja Assassin, you get a double entendre. It is a movie about a ninja who is an assassin, but also an assassinator of ninjas. Unfortunately, that double entendre is about as clever as this movie gets.
Granted, if you saw the title and were immediately intrigued, you will most likely love it, but for those who enjoy more to their movies than excessive blood and guts, I’m sorry to report that it delivers nothing more than that. The acting is bad and the dialogue is laughable. None of that really matters in the end because nobody goes to see a movie called Ninja Assassin expecting Oscar caliber writing and performances, but the problem is that too much time is spent in the all too irrelevant story, which exists as little more than filler between the violent action scenes. Had less time been spent on exposition and more on the outlandish, but admittedly fun action, this would be an easily recommendable movie, but as it stands, it’s not.
Because of that aforementioned irrelevance, I’ve purposely spent little time discussing the story because, really, who cares? Evidently, the filmmakers thought we would because the film spends far too much time in flashback scenes where we learn that our protagonist Raizo, played in the present timeline by South Korean pop sensation Rain, is part of a ninja clan and learning the “way of the ninja,” which evidently means teleporting through midair and having Wolverine-like healing abilities.
To the average viewer, this won’t make any sense, but as a ninja connoisseur buddy of mine explained, the movie apparently follows ninja mythology fairly close. He, being an aficionado of all things ninja (even going so far as to use the word as a verb—“Dude, he ninja-ed the crap outta that guy!”), loved the movie and I suspect others like him will as well. I’m not up to speed with ninja lore, so I could only look at the movie the way it was presented to me and I’m afraid its presentation is lacking.
Ninja Assassin delivers exactly what you expect: decapitations, severed limbs, excessive gore, cool martial arts and ample amounts of ninja battles, but it does so little else that it cannot sustain itself through its already brief runtime.
Ninja Assassin receives 2/5