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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.19.09] movie review action martial arts

Year: 2009
Directors: James McTeigue
Writers: J. Michael Straczynski / Matthew Sand
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 6 out of 10

[Editor's note: Big ups to our gal-pal Marina of the famous Row Three crew for supplying this great review from VIFF '09]

Big props to studios who make big budget B-movies: extravaganzas of sex, action and blood that titillate the senses, but keep the mind on the back burner while still managing to say something about our culture. Arguments that all Hollywood blockbusters are B-movies are somewhat valid, but few films achieve the coveted status of “good B-movie” and though Ninja Assassin certainly tries to get there and almost succeeds, it simply doesn’t manage to be as fun as needs to in order to succeed.

That’s not to say it doesn’t try. The opening sequence in James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta follow-up is a spectacular feast of darkness, blood and mind bending martial arts, a spectacle that starts the film off on great footing and which mixes its action with a touch of wry humour but once the title sequence finishes and the story kicks into gear, the film goes from fun to serious much too quickly.

In this film’s world, there are deadly assassins, men and women trained in the ancient martial arts, and who are then contracted by governments, corporations and individuals, for measly sum of 100 lbs of gold, to kill. They move in shadow, make no sound and are deadly weapons. The greatest of these assassins is Raizo but he left the fold years before and now he spends his time protecting the innocent who have become entangled in an investigation that is dangerously close to putting the clans out of the killing business and hence becoming major targets.

It’s a convoluted plot and one which is third to the film’s brutal action sequences which are shot in near darkness. The film is so dark it’s sometimes difficult to see what’s going on with sounds and occasional glimpses of movement expected to be enough to keep audiences happy. It’s a cheap trick, and one that mostly works though I expect some of it may also be in favour of keeping the ultra-violent film within a rating that allows for wide release.

If the action is the main drive of the film, the secondary attraction is South Korean superstar Rain. The Wachowski brothers introduced North American audiences at large to the star, casting him in Speed Racer but McTeigue is trying to elevate the young man into major Hollywood action star while also catering to the large Asian market and Rain does a great job of his role. He’s sufficiently brooding, handsome and the camera never lets the audience forget that he is a physically superior being with extended training sequences in which he wears little more than sweatpants; good looks will get you somewhere in Hollywood.

Accompanied by a supporting cast that is neither memorable nor important, the film prances along from one ridiculous action sequence to the next. All fine and good except the action itself starts to get old at the halfway mark. A girl can only take so many shots of hands and legs being lopped off before getting bored and sadly, that’s exactly what happens and by the time the film returns to daylight and we actually get to see the climactic action sequence, I was too bored to care.

Lots of action, ridiculous amounts of blood and more than one handsome face is a good start but the movie takes itself much too seriously. Once the bad guys capture Raizo, there is a half-hearted attempt to re-incorporate a bit of humour into the story but it’s simply too little too late making Ninja Assassin an entertaining enough but ultimately disappointing movie.

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lol (12 years ago) Reply

bullshit, I saw the movie and its much more better then this review says here, it seems who ever wrote it took it really personal, my two cents:

If you dont like ninjas dont watch the movie, I agree some scenes are too dark but the action is good and will entertain people.

Taking it seriously...well killing is a serious mater, as far as I know, hard core humor in ninja world would make it look corny and stupid, if you want humor and ninjas go and watch Beverly hills ninja.


Marina (12 years ago) Reply

@lol - good point on the comedy. That would be fine and good if the movie started off on a serious note but the opening sets it up as an action movie with a sense of humor and it never delivers. Add in the buckets of blood which should come with a pre-requisite that it should ONLY be used by someone with a sense of humour and you've got a movie that's trying to hard to be serious but is also completely outlandish. And I never said it wasn't fun: it mostly entertained but in the end, it's a shitty movie you only need to see once.


lol (12 years ago) Reply

They never even tried making something to remember, just trying to bring back the good old ninjas to the big screens once again, well in Hollywood because theres space for some serious quality.

Ah come one,it is worth watching at least 2 times if we compare it to other recent shit that is around.



Rob (12 years ago) Reply

Hey lol, sounds like you'd enjoy "Real Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja Book" - by Robert Hamburger.
It would be right up your street.


lol (12 years ago) Reply

Hahaha, thanks man I know about the book but am more into Japanese literature about shinobi.

Now those are up to my interests.

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