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  • Title: Ninja Assassin
  • Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hour 39 minutes
  • Starring: Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles, Rick Yune, Sho Kosugi
  • Written By: Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski
  • Directed By: James McTeigue
  • Distributor: Warner Bros.
  • Series:


SWOOSH! SHING! You're Dead! Ninja Style!

By Rob M. Worley     November 25, 2009
Source: Mania

There are some movies you call in first few minutes. Before the main titles roll, you know if you're going to like it or not. Ninja Assassin is one of those movies.

The film opens with an arrogant Yakuza soldier undergoing a grueling tattoo session. An envelope is delivered: Folded parchment with a wax seal, holding nothing inside but a handful of black powder. The old tattoo artist recoils in horror because he know that this is the calling card of the Black Sand Clan of ninja assassins. The thugs are still laughing at him when the blood bath starts.

Arms drop from shoulders and heads roll from necks, with nothing but the sounds of *SWOOSH* and a *SHING* to motivate them. Wounds open up into glorious splatters of blood – buckets and buckets of blood – as the Yakuza, falling one by one, helplessly fire into the shadows at an enemy they cannot see. But to no avail, for the shadow creatures they face are...Ninjas!

Ninja Assassin makes no bones about it: Ninjas are every bit as deadly, mysterious and borderline-supernatural as the legends make them out to be. They are invisible. They can climb any surface and enter any locked room. They can heal from any wound and kill you before you ever know they're there.

Naomie Harris plays Europol agent Mika Coretti in NINJA ASSASSIN

Everyone who isn't a ninja in this movie, laughs when they first hear tell of the black-clad assassins. Such is the burden carried by Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris), a Europol agent who believes she's uncovered a paper trail proving the existence of ninjas, willing to kill anyone for 100 pounds of gold. She has to convince her boss, who (like everyone else) first scoffs at the idea.

By acknowledging the inherent silliness of the basic premise, the filmmakers here get to have their cake and eat it too. "Yeah, we know the idea of ninjas might seem goofy at this point – but buy in, because we've got a bloody good story for ya."

But Mika is a secondary character, an ally on the hero's journey. The guy we really want to see is Raizo (played Korean superstar Rain), who is gradually revealed as the Ninja Assassin (an assassin who is a ninja) turned Ninja Assassin (one who assassinates ninjas).

Mika is but the facilitator of Raizo's quest for revenge. There's some good-humored chemistry between Raizo and Mika, and while the plotting is a tiny bit more sophisticated that what you might expect, let's face facts: you're not here to see a hero reach his dramatic need and discover a fundamental truth about the human condition.

You are here to see some ninjas scare the crap out of people before chopping them into burrito fixins'. This movie has that by the truck loads.

Ninja Assassin bounces along between flashback revelations of Raizo's brutal childhood training (shades of King Leonidas in 300) and the present run-and-gun battle between him and his attackers from the Black Sand Clan.

Rain is Raizo in NINJA ASSASSIN

Director James McTeigue stages the escalating battles with panache. He opts for frenetic Bourne-style action scenes with an occasional dip into bullet-time well of his producers the Wachowski Brothers. It's computer-enhanced, wire-fu fighting to be sure, but easy on the eyes. The shooting style is occasionally frustrating as it's sometimes hard to see exactly what is going on, but in a way that enhances the ninja mystique. They are moving faster than your perception!

Best of all everything is doused in wonderful excess: Blood sprays by the gallon. Shuriken hail down on victims like rainfall. Raizo's torso is more scar tissue than skin. A dozen ninjas? Why not a hundred? Throw in a bunch of army guys with machine guns while you're at it! This movie goes so far over the top it's orbiting Mars.

Is the story thin? Like the slice of lettuce on a triple Whopper with cheese. Glorified violence? Yes and without apologies.

But is that really such a bad thing? Like 300 or Blade 2 or Versus, Ninja Assassin is a lean movie that blasts forward on the strength of its stylized, high-octane mayhem to deliver a shot of adrenaline to the heart. In that it succeeds wildly.


READ 8 Martial Arts Masters That Changed Cinema


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gutsmgee 11/25/2009 4:08:04 AM

Yes..but....Did you like it?

midwest216 11/25/2009 4:44:53 AM

I'm sure this movie will be entertaining , maybe even worth the price of a ticket,popcorn,and soda.  I cant get behind a non-martial arts guy pretending to be a expert ninja assassin. He is a big singer in Asian areas, but he trained for the movie roll and then claims to do all his "own stunts". That is the catch-phrase for action movies.

SgtTechCom 11/25/2009 5:35:52 AM

Hey Sho Kosugi who basically brought us Ninja movies and legend in the martial art world is in this movie and thats good enough for me.

I love insane blood splatter =)

jdiggitty 11/25/2009 5:57:12 AM

Hey, you guys seem to have an opening for an editor/proofreader. Where do I send a resume?

ddiaz28 11/25/2009 5:58:25 AM

I for one can't wait to see this.  Funny story ... a few months back I was walking my dog and for some reason started thinking about how awesome the ninja vs. samurai scene was in Last Samurai.  That led me to think about how great it would be to see a movie about ninjas set in the present.  The very next day I saw this trailer for the first time.  I had never even heard this was being made.  It was pretty weird to say the least.  I'm glad to hear it's good.  It's too bad the story is thin but I have no problem seeing a balls out action flick.

Sanity 11/25/2009 6:48:44 AM

I'm guessing the people responsible for the title of this movie had no idea what a ninja is.  Maybe their next movie will be called "Warrior Soldier!"

karas1 11/25/2009 7:46:04 AM

You mean as opposed to those Ninjas who are famous for baking cookies and volunteering at homeless shelters?

gutsmgee 11/25/2009 8:22:51 AM

No, It clearly stated in the review that he was a Ninja, but then became a Ninja Assassin, as in one who assassinates Ninja.

ponyboy76 11/25/2009 8:43:35 AM

Hey, a ninja used to volunteer at the homeless shelter near my old neighborhood. He had you sit down with an empty tray. You'd blink and boom, food on your plate. He made awesome cookies too. He had to stop going there because his smoke bombs were making some homeless people sick.

And gutsmgee is right.  The word ninja doesn't even mean assasin. It literally means "nin - to endure ja - a person"  They were basically mercenaries from the 14th Century. Yes, they were used as assasins, among other things.

hanso 11/25/2009 8:50:03 AM

I'm really hoping the next one is Pirate Plunderer. Then after that they can tie both films together and have Pirates vs. Ninjas!

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