Ninja Assassin Review: Bloody Hell
Ninjas: silent killers that can dodge bullets and strike from the shadows. What’s not to love? Not only are they deadly, they’re cool – black never goes out of fashion. Unfortunately Ninja Assassin is a flat, uninspiring splatterfest which even disappoints in the action stakes.
Raizo (Korean pop star Rain) is the best assassin in the shady Ozunu Clan. He was taken from the streets at an early age and trained to be a vicious killer under the harsh tutelage of Lord Ozunu himself (Ninja movie legend Sho Kosugi). But when a classmate and friend is executed for breaking their laws, Raizo rebels and escapes from the clan’s compound.
Meanwhile, Europol Agent Mika (Naomie Harries) has stumbled across evidence that a series of political assassinations is linked to shadowy ninja organisations and decides to investigate further.
Her digging makes her a target, and the Ozunu clan send a team to eliminate her. Raizo saves her life, but realises that more will soon be on their way. Can Raizo and Mika survive their onslaught long enough to bring down the clan?
The opening scene in which a room of cocky small time thugs are dispatched by an invisible assailant sets the tone for the level of violence in the film – severed limbs and heads decorate the walls like an explosion in a butcher’s shop.
There are buckets and buckets of CGI blood. It’s one of the hardest things to recreate convincingly and here the stylised splatters and glistening rivulets are so obviously fake, it’s hard to take anything seriously.
And the main drawing point of the film – the martial arts action set pieces – are so muddled and cut with such poor staccato editing that it’s often hard to tell what’s going on.
In a film which has a paper-thin plot anyway, there are more holes than you can swing your nunchucks at. Ninjas are depicted to be able to hear the slightest sound and yet they can’t hear 30 armoured cars and a helicopter until they’re 15 feet away. Ninjas only have semi-supernatural powers when it’s convenient to the plot it seems.
Ninja Assassin plays out like a straight-to-video mid-80s Jean Claude Van Damme movie. Cheesy action, cheesier dialogue and a plot so insubstantial it could be written on the back a beer mat. Only a climactic confrontation between master and pupil in the last act is interesting to watch; a duel which takes place in silhouette in the burning Dojo of Clan Ozunu.
Ninja Assassin could have been brilliant: an action packed, martial arts spectacular which oozed style and finesse. Unfortunately it’s nothing of the sort; it’s just a bloody mess.