Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Rain, Naomi Harris, Ben Miles, Shô Kosugi, Sung Kang, Rick Yune
Directed by James McTeigue
Distributed by Warner Home Video
Ninjas, man. They’re every bit a part of any horror fan’s childhood as the great movie monsters who’ve been haunting us for our entire lives. They’re deadly, sometimes supernatural badasses known to accumulate amazingly high body counts with dexterity and grace. Though not straight horror by any stretch of the imagination, they’ve lived comfortably on the fringe of our genre for ages, and when Warner Brothers first announced Ninja Assassin, we were pretty damned stoked to have these shadow people back on the big screen. So, does it deliver? We’ll get to that in a bit … first a quick plot crunch.
After six months of ridiculously tough martial arts training, Korean pop star Rain was transformed into our lead ninja, Raizo. A man with a dark past and, given his circumstances of being hunted by everyone including his old clan, an even darker future. Our hero is looking for redemption, and the chance for it falls into his lap once he meets Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris), a Europol agent who has just strapped a target on her back thanks to her relentless mission to not only prove the existence of Ninjas, but to expose the fact that they’ve been hired by a corrupt government and have been used for decades to pull off many a dirty job. By dirty we mean blood-soaked. Together our unlikely duo set off on a path that leads to much violence, many flying limbs, and geysers of gore.
Yes, the storyline is pretty thin, and this is without question more of a style over substance type experience, but damn if I didn’t have a hell of a good time watching the fists and swords fly as the body count steadily rose. There are a few problems along the way, though. First up is the editing. It’s quick and tight. So tight at times you can barely see what’s going on. Case in point — a chase scene that happens at night, in the rain, on a highway, starring a cast dressed primarily in black that’s riddled with jump-cuts and close-ups. I had no clue what was happening. How could anyone? Still, that is the most extreme example, and the rest of the action is nowhere near as incoherent. Another glaring issue is the abundance of CGI used to accent the fight scenes and the violence. Lord, how I miss the days of practical effects. Digital gore can get really tiresome, but I guess it’s here to stay. Sigh.
There are two ways to get your hands on Ninja Assassin: as a standalone DVD with around eight minutes of deleted scenes and nothing else as a bonus feature or in a Blu-ray and DVD combo-pack that’s home to a few more bits of supplemental goodness. Let’s be clear; the 1080p/VC-1 video transfer and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track stand head and shoulders above their standard definition cousin. If you have the tech, Blu-ray is the only way to go.
As mentioned, both packages contain four deleted scenes that were pretty much cut for pacing. There’s nothing major here that you cannot live without. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are three making-of featurettes that offer some great insight into the rigorous amount of training Rain had to endure to play his part, the complexity of the film’s stunts and action sequences, and even a look back at Ninja mythology. Tag on a not so exclusive look at the upcoming Clash of the Titans film, add in a digital copy and BD-Live functionality, and we’re done.
Ninja Assassin may or may not be just the movie you’re looking for to scratch your martial arts itch. Either way it certainly has much more going for it than it does against it, and besides — Shô Kosugi, the original Ninja badass is in it as the bad guy, and that, my friends, by our estimation is worth the price of admission alone.
3 1/2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
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