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DVD Shopping Bag: Ninja Assassin Blu-ray

Are there Good Ninja Movies?

By Robert T. Trate     March 16, 2010


Raizo (Rain) in Ninja Assassin
© Warner Bros./Bob Trate

 

Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Ryu Hayabusa and Pvt. Joe Armstrong are the extent of Ninja characters that I know about. Obviously the first two are from the G.I. Joe cartoon series, comic book and recent film. Ryu is the lead character from Ninja Gaiden, one of the greatest Nintendo games of all time, whereas Pvt. Joe Armstrong is my shame. Yes, I once watched American Ninja while trapped at my grandparents’ house on a snowy Sunday afternoon. Ninjas and their moviesjust don’t have a lot of options. Whether it is quality, quantity or just straight up availability Ninja movies are hard to come by. The days of Kung Fu Theater are long gone but these trends seem to be changing. So when Ninja Assassin came my way from Warner Brothers I leaped at the chance to see a modern take on this genre.  
 
I was completely ready for subtitles. I was actually looking forward to it. What I got was Ninjas and an international cast that spoke English better than most people do. The story unfolded as a Europol forensic researcher, Mika (Naomie Harris), unveils to her superior her theory that international gangs, businesses and governments are using Ninjas to eliminate the competition. It would seem almost out of left field if this wasn’t paralleling how Ninjas are trained and prepared to serve their clans. We meet a young orphan named Raizo (Rain) and we see that the only thing in his life is his clan. They are brutally trained to fight and be perfect killing machines. There is of course a young woman in Raizo’s life who makes him learn that he has a heart. She has lines such as, “The heart of a tree, knows which way it grows” which is said with such fluidity that you can actually see a life clock ticking down to her death. We know this is coming because we learn haphazardly through our forensic researcher that Raizo left his clan and is now looking to bring them down. This is straight up good ninja versus bad ninja movie. I was prepared for this because I knew I wasn’t going to see the likes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Kill Bill. What I didn’t expect to see was a Hammer Film.
 
Now for those of you that don’t know Hammer Films or Hammer Horror Films ran red with blood. So much blood in fact that they once called it the studio that dripped blood. Imagine if you will Hammer Studios of old making a Ninja movie. Body parts go flying, guts are spilled and there must have been a river of blood flowing every time they shot a scene. There was a lot of blood that was CGI. At times this did add to the style of the fight sequences and the scenes. If anything this film doesn’t lack style, if you can call a meat grinder a form of style.
 
Imagine my surprise when I saw that J. Michael Straczynski shares a screen writing credit. Straczynski shaped one of the best runs of Amazing Spider-Man in decades. He returned Thor and Asgard to Earth. Let us not forget he also created one of the most beloved science fiction shows of the modern era in Babylon 5. The man clearly knows how to tell a story, let alone finish one. Ninja Assassin plays out like a comic book with double crosses and uneasy alliances. However there are several occurrences where I felt as if full chapters from the story were missing, as if I missed as issue or two. There is one character in particular that addresses Raizo as if they had a connection deeper than the one we are shown. If this was a subtitled film I might have thought it was lost in translation but it was not. By the end of Ninja Assassin all I could think of was, how were the Ninja clans ever going to be a secret again? After all, the Ninjas throw stars like bullets from a machine gun and there had to be literally millions all over the streets.
 
As far as my Blu-ray experience went the 1080p only highlighted the CGI blood. It also pointed out the CGI blur that the Ninjas would use to move in and out of the shadows. On real film and in darkened theater this probably looked better. The sound was also extremely inconsistent. The dialogue was often too soft whereas the explosions were just too loud.
 
Ninja Assassin did not deter me from seeing another Ninja film. Actually, I am looking forward to something a littleless Americanized and not watered down. I’m asking you Maniacs for help. Give me your best Ninja movies below. I want subtitles. I want incredible stunts. Then again a good plot and great characters would be cool too.
 
ACTION / ADVENTURE / KUNG FU/ THRILLERS / WESTERNS
 
Anti-Terrorist Cell: Checkmate ~ Arnold Vosloo, Michael Ironside, Ben Cross, and Colin Salmon
 
Armored
 
Armored [Blu-ray]
 
Challenge the Dragon
 
D.C. Sniper ~ Ken Foree
 
Death Journey ~ Fred Williamson, Bernard Kirby, Art Maier, and Lou Bedford
 
High Life ~ Timothy Olyphant, Stephen Eric McIntyre, and Rossif Sutherland
 
Kurbaan ~ Saif Ali Khan
 
Mean Johnny Barrows: Uncut Director's Edition ~ Fred Williamson, Roddy McDowall, Stuart Whitman, and Anthony Caruso
 
Ninja Assassin (Blu-ray+DVD+Digital Copy Combo Pack)
 
Order Of Chaos ~ Milo Ventimiglia, Rhys Coiro, Samantha Mathis, and Mimi Rogers
 
The Restless Gun ~ John Payne
 
Super Wheels (Cinema Insomnia Edition) ~ Rudolph Zehetengruber, Kathrin Oginski, and Mr. Lobo
 
The Tall Man ~ Barry Sullivan
 
Unrivaled [Blu-ray] ~ Hector Echavarria, Rashad Evans, Steven Yaffee, and Keith Jardine
 
Unrivaled
 
ANIME
 
Gunslinger Girl: The complete First Season [Blu-ray] ~ Monica Rial, Alese Watson, and Laura Bailey
 
Gunslinger Girl: II Teatrino (Season 2) [Blu-ray] ~ Luci Christian, Caitlin Glass, and Laura Bailey
 
One Piece: Season Two, Sixth Voyage ~ Colleen Clinkenbeard, Luci Christian, and Eric Vale
 
Slayers Revolution: The Complete Fourth Season ~ Veronica Taylor, Michael Sinterniklaas, and Lisa Ortiz
 
Tayutama: Kiss on My Deity
 
CARTOONS
 
Astro Boy ~ Nicolas Cage
 
Astro Boy [Blu-ray]
 
The Princess and the Frog (Single Disc Widescreen) ~ Bruno Campos, Anika Noni Rose, Keith David, and Jenifer Lewis
 
The Princess and The Frog (Three Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo with Digital Copy)
 
The Princess and the Frog (Single Disc Blu-ray)
 
SpongeBob SquarePants: Spongebob's Last Stand
 
COMEDY AND LOVE Mania Style
 
Mr. Bean's Most Memorable Moments ~ Rowan Atkinson
 
Mystery Science Theater 3000: XVII ~ Joel Hodgson, Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett
 
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Two-Disc Special Edition) ~ Kristen Stewart
 
The Twilight Saga: New Moon [Blu-ray]
 
HORROR
 
Blurred Realities: American Zombie/The Hole Story/American Shopper
 
Eugene ~ Ryan Reyes
 
Pontypool [Blu-ray] ~ Stephen Mchattie
 
SCIENCE FICTION / FANTASY
 
The Fourth Kind ~ Milla Jovovich, Will Patton, Corey Johnson, and Enzo Cilenti
 
The Fourth Kind [Blu-ray]
 
TV LAND
 
Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray] ~ Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, and Dean Norris
 
Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season ~ Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, and Dean Norris
 
Hawaii Five-O: Eighth Season ~ Jack Lord, James MacArthur, Kam Fong, and Herman Wedermeyer
 
Monk: Season Eight ~ Tony Shalhoub, Jason Gray-Stanford, and Ted Levine
 
South Park: The Complete Thirteenth Season ~ Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes, and Mona Marshall
 
South Park: The Complete Thirteenth Season [Blu-ray]
 
Wish Me Luck: Series 1 ~ Julian Glover
 
UNDENIABLE CLASSICS
 
The Constance Talmadge Double Feature: Her Night of Romance (1924) / Her Sister From Paris (1925) ~ Constance Talmadge, Ronald Colman, George K. Arthur, and Jean Hersholt
 
The Norma Talmadge Double Feature: Kiki (1926) / Within the Law (1923) ~ Norma Talmadge, Ronald Colman, Lew Cody, and Gertrude Astor
 
BOX SETS
 
Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vegeance/Oldboy/Lady Vengeance)
 
Robert Trate writes two weekly columns for Mania the DVD Shopping Bag and the Toy Maniac. Robert also participates in a pod cast that reviews movies, comics and celebrates all things geek. Check it out at You’ve Got Geek on You.com.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 8 of 8
1 
tacid 3/16/2010 4:59:14 AM

Sweet nothing I want to buy this week. I made the mistake of buying the first Twilight without knowing any of the hype about it. I just tought sweet a new vampire movie Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Yeah they won;t fool me into buying the second. Except maybe to burn it in front of little girls waiting in line to see the 3rd one

AmbyWarhol 3/16/2010 6:15:05 AM

Ninja Assassin was AWESOME!!!  By the way, haven't you ever heard of Shinobi?  That was the only guy missing from the list for me growing up.  If you want good ninja action see the Japanese flick "Azumi" 1 and 2 if you must, but specifically 1.  

 

AmbyWarhol 3/16/2010 6:16:03 AM

BTW There was also a Scott Adkins movie called "Ninja" that just came out on Blu-Ray. You can find it on Amazon.com .

http://www.amazon.com/Ninja-Blu-ray-Scott-Adkins/dp/B002XTBE60/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1268745161&sr=8-1

I have a whole list of Japanese ninja flicks. They never stopped making them.

redhairs99 3/16/2010 9:49:41 AM

I vaguely remember an old nintendo game called Shinobi but beyond that I don't know.

Tacid, if you still have your copy of Twilight I suggest you buy the Rifftrax commentary from the guys who did MST3K.  Freakin' HILARIOUS!  It might just be the funniest rifftrax I've heard.  Man, that movie is bad, sorry Starlight.

dbrock06 3/16/2010 11:06:08 AM

I don't know if it applies to your ninja movies, nut one of my favorites was Iron Monkey.  Just an all in all great movie.

Calibur454 3/16/2010 12:01:37 PM

Best ninja movies are hard to come buy seeing as how most were done in the 80's during the whole matial arts karate kid culture fad- If I had to pick a favorite fromj that time period it would be revenge of the ninja

television even got into the act with a show called American Ninja- ( at least that what I think it was called) it was so long ago I cant remember now. I do remember seing some of the show on vhs but I highly doubt its on dvd. It was pretty decent show for its time- seeing as how it was a tv show and not done for the theater

I could throw in a couple of anime titles as well but you are proably looking for the live action variety

 

themovielord 3/16/2010 12:47:55 PM

thanks guys! just added the titles to my netflix! ~ Robert

hanso 3/16/2010 4:44:14 PM

How could you leave out the guy from American Ninja 3, 4, & 5?

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