Ninja Assassin (2009)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller, Martial Arts  |   Release Date - Nov 25, 2009 (USA)  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - Germany, France, United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Cammila Collar

Ninja Assassin isn't the kind of movie that you compare to other movies. You compare it to a 2-lb. bacon sandwich with a bomb inside. You compare it to a magical gas-powered modified AK-47 that shoots live bears that are also on fire. And, okay, if you really want, you can compare it to B-level kung fu fare, or to other stuff that's been inspired by those movies, like Kill Bill. No, Ninja Assassin isn't exactly a Tarantino-level masterpiece, but it's still a rollicking good time for anybody interested in gratuitous fight sequences, the gratuitous severing of limbs, and the resulting gratuitous geysers of blood. And, honestly, who goes into a movie called Ninja Assassin expecting anything else?

The story centers on Raizo (played by impossibly pretty Korean pop star Rain), a defector from a brutal Spartan-esque school of ninja badassery, where he trained to be an assassin from childhood. It would seem that, after mastering the skills to fight an adversary blindfolded, will his body to heal its own wounds, and take down multiple attackers with what looks like a knife on the end of a wallet chain, Raizo realized that the sensei who ran his school was just using him for his own evil ends -- namely, profit. Meanwhile, intrepid Interpol investigator Mika (Naomie Harris) starts sniffing around the clandestine ninja association's track record and unwittingly makes herself a target. So, naturally, because he shares her desire to bring the organization down (and maybe because she reminds him of the weirdly compassionate girl who once trained with him to be a hired killer), he rescues her from vivisection and the two team up.

Ninja Assassin can be oddly earnest at times, but don't let that fool you -- this movie is a tribute. Between guys getting riddled with throwing stars as if they were buckshot and a showdown that boils down to ninjas vs. automatic weapons, it's pretty clear that director James McTeigue wanted to have a little fun. And while it can lack humor, we can't say it lacks depth because it's not supposed to have any. It's actually kind of a cool idea to take a generic martial-arts action script -- complete with epic training montages and people from other countries whose native tongue is to speak English with a foreign accent -- and see how far you can get on a modest budget, with CG offering so many more possibilities than the old days. You certainly can't fault the filmmakers for trying, and lucky for us, it turns out it was a worthwhile experiment.