Review of Ninja Assassin
Ninja Assassin is an out-of-your-mind martial arts film that follows appropriately in the lines of the ninja-movie genre. If you have seen any martial arts films from the 80’s and 90’s then you know the plot of Ninja Assassin. Fortunately, having a good plot in a ninja movie is at the bottom of the director’s list of “Important Things to Remember While Making This Movie”.
In Ninja Assassin a boy is raised by ninjas but rejects their heartless philosophy and tries to stop them. This storyline has been done countless times. But if you go to see this movie expecting a heart-warming tale that will alter your life through its use of extended metaphors, subtlety and brilliant analogy–you will be sorely disappointed.
What sets Ninja Assassin apart from others of its kind is that it has better special effects, better sound editing and tons of gore. It still has mediocre acting, bad dialogue and terrible writing. People in the theater, myself included, were laughing at many of the lines the actors courageously delivered. Normally, this would be cause to leave the theater in anger and demand your money back. But in this genre, good dialogue, pacing and a functional storyline are secondary to showing tons of ninjas dispatching people with throwing stars, swords and kusarigama (a dagger on the end of a long chain). People get chopped in half, decapitated, impaled and dismembered in all sorts of inhuman ways. Men will go to see this movie to satisfy their instinctual need for bloody conflict and combat.
This movie had all the flair and pop of a new martial arts movie. My only disappointment had to do with the expectations the advertising created for me. When I heard about the movie and saw some of the early television spots, I expected this to be a spaghetti ninja movie. The commercials started touting the movie as being “from the creators of The Matrix.” Knowing that the Wachowski brothers helped make the movie inflated my expectations and I started thinking, “Maybe this will be something beyond another martial arts movie with good FX.”
But it turns out that Ninja Assassin has 11 producers and only two of them are the Wachowski brothers. The only similarity between The Matrix and Ninja Assassin that I could find was in the cinematography during the fight scenes. It seems like a lot of action movies are competing with each other to see who can shake the camera the most during fight scenes (the Bourne movies are the winners). You can’t tell what’s going on or who’s hitting who because the camera is so close to the action and the camera man is running and jumping around. This is not the case in Ninja Assassin and is probably the result of The Matrix visual effects supervisor John Gaeta’s involvement. During the majority of the fight scenes they use a steady camera that slowly rotates around the combatants. This way you can watch them hack and punch at each other without getting vertigo.
Ninja Assassin is the second film directed by James McTeigue. His first was V for Vendetta. Guess who wrote the screenplay for V for Vendetta? The Wachowski brothers. McTeigue was also First Assistant Director on all three Matrix movies. I see a pattern developing here. McTeigue got such a great start to his career by directing a film adaptation to an Alan Moore comic book series. Then he does this? It’s a strange jump I think.
If you and your friends want to go see a really sweet martial arts movie that includes a guy getting the top portion of his head sliced off leaving his tongue wiggling out his neck–then go see this movie. Drink a couple tall boys before hand too. Do not take your girlfriend to see Ninja Assassin.
Here’s some fun trivia about this movie. The main character in the film, Raizo, is played by a South Korean pop icon named Rain (real name Jeong Ji-hoon). Rain is the Justin Timberlake of South Korea. Time magazine conducts an annual web survey where users rank the most influential celebrities in the world. Rain and Stephen Colbert have consistently been battling each other for the top two spots. Finally, Colbert challenged Rain to a dance off. You can watch the hilarious video here.