Ninja Assassin **½
There was a time when the words “From the creators of The Matrix Trilogy” might actually have counted for something when linked with a film. After all, The Wachowski Brothers were once a considered an extremely hot property in Hollywood, The Matrix helping to usher in a new age for cinema. However, negative backlash to sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions started them on a downward slope in their directing career, with their 2008 release Speed Racer being a huge box office flop that won points with fans but failed to attract a mainstream audience. The words were also linked with the film V For Vendetta, which was not directed by the Wachowskis, but just produced, the director being newcomer James McTeigue. The film was excellent and proved a semi-success, and showed that McTeigue might be a director to look out for. Now, with the Wachowskis once again one producing duties, McTeigue is back behind the camera once again for Ninja Assassin. Again not very successful on its US release, the film has nonetheless gained a fair amount of buzz, if only for its title. Again, not really a film that is likely to appeal to a mainstream audience but will the fans at least be satisfied? Perhaps.
Taken from the streets as a child, Raizo (Rain) was made into a trained killer by the Ozunu Clan, a secret society whose very existence is considered a myth. Haunted by the Clan’s merciless execution of his friend, Raizo breaks free and goes into hiding to prepare his revenge. In Berlin, Europol agent Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) stumbles upon a money trail linking several political murders to an underground network of assassins from the Far East. Defying the orders of her superior, Ryan Maslow (Ben Miles), Mika digs into top secret files to learn the truth. Her investigation makes her a target, and the Ozunu Clan sends a team led by the lethal Takeshi (Rick Yune) to silence her. Raizo saves Mika from her attackers, but he knows that the Clan will not rest until they are both eliminated.
For a film with the title Ninja Assassin you get pretty much exactly what you would expect – lots of ninja action and little else – what else would you expect from a film about a ninja who is an assassin? Essentially a B movie actioner with nothing going on beneath the surface, the focus here is on action at the expense of everything else. A definite case of style over substance, the film is really just a series of fight sequences with nothing of artistic merit in between. The story and dialogue are weak, the former being paper thin and only existing to provide a link between the fight sequences, and the latter being completely inconsequential as the ninjas aren’t really much for conversation. Character development, presented in the form of flashbacks to a younger Raizo during his ninja training days, is minimal, merely the obligatory explanation for his motivations and actions. There is also little to speak of in the acting department with very little actually required of the cast. When it comes to the action, though, the film does mostly deliver. The choreography of the fight sequences is very good and the martial arts moves are superb with all the performers showing off impressive fighting skills, in particular Rain. The action is heavily stylized, being a cut above much of what you might find in other similar films, and should deliver the thrills action fans are looking for. The action is not completely perfect, however, as at some points things move so fast as to make it hard to keep track of what is going on, in one sequence the fact that both ninjas are wearing masks makes it hard to determine who is how, and the action is excessively violent and gory, certainly not for the squeamish and fully deserving of the film’s 18 certificate. Despite these flaws, though, the action does entertain. However, as a whole, the lack of substance and a rather soulless feel means that while Ninja Assassin manages to be quite entertaining it is completely unmemorable, being too heavily based around mindless action. So, something of a disappointment for McTeigue and the Wachowskis then.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
We hope you're enjoying BRWC. You should check us out on our social channels, subscribe to our newsletter, and tell your friends. BRWC is short for battleroyalewithcheese.