Ninja Assassin (Warner Bros. Pictures, R)

film_ninja-assassin_sm.gifThere are many aspects of Ninja Assassin that can be picked apart and pointed to as contributing to its failure.



The most disappointing thing about Ninja Assassin—and there are far too numerous disappointments in the film to list—is that the trailer pretty well gives any viewer enough to go on to form an opinion about the movie. The story is very thin and riddled with holes, and fails to even provide the audience with satisfying action or fight sequences. Most of the movie is cloaked in darkness and when there is something to see, it isn’t worth our attention.

The movie begins with a Europol agent named Mika (Naomie Harris) who is attempting to prove the existence of a secret society of ninja assassins that may be responsible for hundreds of assassinations over the last thousand years. Her former boss was killed during his investigation into the case, a fact that Mika chooses to ignore when it is pointed out by her coworker Ryan Maslow (Ben Miles). When she gets too close to the truth, Mika is attacked in her apartment by a group of ninjas, only to be saved by Raizo (Rain), one of the deadliest ninjas in the world.

Raizo, we find out through flashback after flashback, was stolen from his family as a small child and raised by the Ozunu Clan at a secret facility that raises and trains children to become deadly martial artists. Raizo’s master and father substitute is the leader of the Ozunu Clan (Sho Kosugi), who sees Raizo as the perfect successor to his role as leader. Raizo’s future goes awry when he disobeys his master and vows to get his revenge on the clan for the murder of the girl he loved.

When Raizo saves Mika, she learns of his plans to take down the clan and, with the help of Maslow, the two draw the Ozunus into a trap that will attempt to expose and destroy their secret ancient ways.

Though there are many aspects of Ninja Assassin that can be picked apart and pointed to as contributing to its failure, none is more key than the lack of focus and direction from James McTeigue, whose adaptation of V for Vendetta became almost comical at times. McTeigue doesn’t seem to know if he is creating an homage to the authentic martial arts films of Bruce Lee or if he is trying to compete with co-producers the Wachowski Brothers in the most overblown use of special effects. The final product is a watered-down hodgepodge of poorly coordinated fight scenes that are blurred by far too much editing. Clearly even McTeigue didn’t believe in the movie and did his best to hide the weak martial arts training of his actors.

Even more disheartening is the late-stage script doctoring by J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling) that has no visible positive impact on the movie. If the final product is what resulted from Straczynksi’s assistance, I would hate to have seen the movie with only Matthew Sand’s script to go on.

There is no reason to watch this movie unless it is on basic cable at two o’clock in the morning and you are suffering from extreme insomnia. If that is the case, Ninja Assassin will be the best remedy you’ll ever come across. | Matthew F. Newlin


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