NINJA ASSASSIN movie review

photo: Daniel Goncalves

by Rick Grant
“Ninjas? Are you kidding me?” an Asian thug asks when ninjas send him a black sand letter, meaning that ninjas will appear any second out of the shadows and slaughter him and his heavily armed gang. This sums up the nutty idea for the movie.
Director, James McTeigue must have said to the cast: “ Pretend that ninjas still exist and with no tongue-in-cheek slant, we will create the bloodiest, fastest-action, slice-and-dice kung-fu movie ever made.” And he did it.
Clearly, over-the-top game animation influenced this blood splatter film. The kung-fu action is over the top as viewers are asked to suspend their disbelief and take this gratuitous violence seriously. When a sword is plunged into flesh, blood gushes out like old faithful. Heads roll, arms fly into the air, and bodies crumple on the ground in a river of blood. It’s ridiculous.
Amazingly, there is a story. Raizo (Korean pop star Rain) is raised in an orphanage by a strict martial arts master, a sadistic psychopath who demands absolute loyalty. He creates brainwashed assassins in the ancient tradition of the Ninjas. These killers are for hire to the highest bidder. They lurk in the shadows like demons, and kill their target before he or she even realize they are there.
As Raizo gets older, he develops a forbidden romance with a female student and begins to hate the old man’s relentless cruelty. When his girlfriend runs away, the master’s ninjas track her down and bring her back to the orphanage. The master drives a sword into her heart, killing her instantly. Raizo vows to get revenge and takes off on his own.
But like the Mafia, no one leaves the Ninja order and lives. Raizo is continuously tracked by the stealthy brotherhood of assassins. His life is in constant danger as he travels the globe plotting to kill ninjas before they fulfill their death contracts.
Meanwhile, Interpole investigator, Mika (Naomie Harris) finds out that these highly trained assassins are for real and killing important people. She and her partner Maslow (Ben Miles) are on the case. However, the clan has high level contacts in the law enforcement community that put the two Interpole agents in grave danger.
One night, Mika returns from work and a Ninja assassin is in her apartment, but she is saved by Raizo who has been tracking the Ninjas. Now he must protect Mika from the onslaught of ninjas popping up everywhere Mika goes.
So, for the rest of the film, Raizo is fighting off his former brothers in the Ninja clan in sword clanging, blood spurting scenes that go on ad nauseam. Poor Mika is no match for these assassins. In one sequence, Raizo takes Mika on a ride to escape the Ninja menace. Cut to the obligatory car chase segments as ninjas throw deadly stars that stick into the car’s body like a pin-cushion.
Ho hum, the furious action is difficult to watch and it’s so herky-jerky, my eyes couldn’t focus fast enough, and, at times, I had to look away. For action junkies who are also kung fu devotees, this is a feast of kung fu action, sword fighting, severing of limbs, and generally senseless violence. Gamers will love it.