Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ninja Assassin (2009) Review

Ninja Assassin (2009) Directed by James McTeigue

Nobody will ever accuse "Ninja Assassin" of false advertising. You pretty much know exactly what you're getting into based on the title. My only questions are these: how does a film titled "Ninja Assassin" manage to take itself so seriously, and how on earth does it manage to fail at what it sets out to do?

The plot is pretty standard fare: an ex-member of a clan of ninjas is being pursued by his clan for deserting them. There's also a completely extraneous subplot about a European police agency tracking down the ninja clans. The "hero" Raito, is played by Rain (a Korean pop star), and as he seeks to take his ex-clan down, we're shown flashbacks of his past and his training at the clan's dojo.

If we were supposed to empathize with Raito due to his harsh upbringing at the dojo, then maybe it would have been wise to leave out scene after scene of him being abused by his sensei. After a very short while, watching children being beaten until they're bloody gets really tiresome. It also makes me certain that the adult Raito has grown up to be an emotionless sociopath. Rather than a likable anti-hero, we're given a creepy blank-faced killer who it's impossible to relate to.

I wanted a fun ninja movie - and granted, parts of this began to approach fun. Some of the battle scenes were decently choreographed for brief instances. One fight involving knives on chains was entertaining, although not significantly more than playing God of War at home. But most battles were blurry and overedited with a more-than-ample amount of CG blood added in to distract you from their faults. It's not the most terrible crime an action movie can commit, but there's absolutely no emotional investment in the battles to make up for their shoddy choreography. There's not a single character in the film we care about, so all the flashy fight scenes in the world don't mean a thing at the end of the day.

If there's one flaw that takes this film down, it's that it takes itself so seriously. There is not a single moment of levity in the entire thing. The dialogue in this film was scraped off the bottom of the barrel, and is peppered with lines like "You have a special heart." "Your heart is strong." "Your heart is weak." It's a shame that a movie seemingly fixated on hearts doesn't have one of its own.

3 / 10

Pros: Mindlessly entertaining at times.
Cons: Takes itself way too seriously to be fun. Not a single likable character.

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