Ninja Assassin (2009)
By: J.R. McNamara on June 10, 2012  | 
DVD
Warner Bros. | Region B | 2.40:1, 1080p | English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | 98 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: James McTeigue
Starring: Rain, Naomie Harris.,Ben Miles, Shô Kosugi, Sung Kang, Rick Yune
Screenplay: Matthew Sand, J. Michael Straczynski
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB Totten YouTube
I thought Ninja Assassin was gonna be cool. Directed by James McTeigue, who directed one of my favorite films of all time in V For Vendetta, it looked to be an homage to the ninja films of the 80s, and I had heard it was as gory as a butcher's trashcan. Wile I believe my anticipation was warranted for those reasons, I was sorely disappointed.

Ninja Assassin tells two stories of the life of Raizo (K-pop singer Rain in his first Western role), a ninja assassin. One story, told in flashbacks, sees Raizo grow up in a form of barracks where children are taught the ways of the ninja by a cruel master named Ozunu (Sho Kosugi) where through the love of a woman, he becomes disillusioned with his way of life. The other story tells of Europol agent Mika (Naomie Harris) who is investigating the rumor of ninjas living in Berlin. Of course, the ninjas want their secret kept at any cost, and Raizo saves her, and the pair team up to tear the ninja clan down, leading Raizo in a war against his brothers and former master.

I really tried to enjoy Ninja Assassin. The acting in general was OK, I liked the appearance of Die Another Day's Rick Yune, 28 Days Later's Naomie Harris and especially 80s martial arts legend Sho Kosugi, and the fight scenes showcased some amazing choreography with a mix of martial arts and other acrobatic art displays. Unfortunately, the two things that pissed me off were hard to pass over.

Thing that pissed me off #1: excessive CGI blood. I don't have a problem with CGI effects, but this just got ridiculous. I can handle a blood spray enhanced with CGI, but this seemed to be nothing but CGI blood, which looked fake and occasionally flat as well. I am sorry to be an old fart, but give me traditional Asian cinema blood sprays anyday!

Thing that pissed me off 2: the script is essentially two generic martial arts tales, those being 'cop investigates hidden ninjas in a modern town' and 'rebellious student turns his back on cruel master' mixed into one story. One average story. The story and screenplay are written by Matthew Sand, and apparently rewritten by J. Michael Straczynski, but for this to be the accepted script, and from a well respected TV, film and comic writer, Sand's original must have been an absolute pile of crud. The script had one highlight, but it was actually a reference to actor Rain's 'other' occupation, a singer, but if you don't know that bit of trivia, you wouldn't even blink at it.

The second point is a real problem in this case. The potential for greatness was there, with a lead that showed some talent, and the other positives I pointed out earlier, it's just a shame the script was just a boring disaster.
Video
Super crystal clear presentation, this one. Presented in 2.40:1, it is an immaculate transfer.
Audio
Audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, but it has a few issues. I tried several times to adjust the sound, but the bass was constantly far too loud, and the speech far too soft, so I spent the entire film increasing the sound for the dialogue, but reducing  it for the action.
Extra Features
The filmmakers drew a fine quiver of extras for this film:

The Myth and Legend of Ninjas looks at the martial art of ninjitsu, ninjas in pop culture and the history of ninjas. It is a quite informative short, with some great sequences from other films and interviews with actors, Asian culture commentators and actual masters of ninjitsu.

The Extreme Sport of a Ninja is a look at the stunts of Ninja Assassin, and how they used everything from actual ninjitsu, parkour, tricking and acrobatics in additions to CGI and wirework to make the fighting look the way it does.

Training Rain looks at getting the actor who plays Raizo into the peak physical condition he needed to perform the role, as well as the fight choreography, which is obviously the cornerstone of a martial arts flick.

There is also some deleted scenes, but I think they have been reinserted into the film, making the extra unnecessary.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I really wanted to like this film, as I enjoyed it whilst I watched it, but over time. rot set in. As much as I liked the fighting choreography, I just couldn't look past the lame CGI blood and the crap story.

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