Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles, Sho Kosugi, Rick Yune
Matthew Sand, J. Michael Straczynski
In the holiday's second shining example of a film title that truly says it all, Warner Brothers' "Ninja Assassin" is, you guessed it, about a ninja assassin named Raizo (Rain), considered one of the most dangerous trained assassins in the world after being plucked from the streets as a child and raied by an orphanage run by a notorious secret society, the Ozunu Clan. After witnessing the brutal execution of a close friend by the clan, Raizo escapes from their grip and goes into hiding while waiting for the opportune time to exact revenge. The time comes when a Europol agent named Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) begins investigating, against the command of her superior (Ben Miles), a series of political murders possibly committed by this secret society. With her life now in danger, Raizo swings into action and the battle between good and evil begins.
Wow, that sounded like a video game description, eh?
Indeed, director James McTeigue ("V for Vendetta") creates a film that would work perfectly as the storyline for a video game. As a film, however, "Ninja Assassin" is woefully inadequate.
Produced by the Wachowski brothers, "Ninja Assassin" provides further food for thought that both the Wachowski's and McTeigue, who has also worked with the Wachowski's as an assistant director on the "Matrix" films and the godawful "Speed Racer," are one trick filmmakers and, in the wrong setting, that trick is very, very boring, indeed.
Therein lies much of the problem with "Ninja Assassin." It's boring.
How does one make a boring ninja flick?
The recipe is equal parts redundant storyline, weak computer generated special effects, poorly developed lighting and horridly choreographed fight scenes that all add up to a film that makes no sense and looks nonsensical.
Bonus points for consistency, I suppose.
As the film's heroic figure, Korean pop star Rain shows potential as a screen presence but isn't given nearly enough moments to shine in this wide release flick that would have gone straight-to-video with any other director or producers at the helm. The same is true for co-stars Naomie Harris, Sho Kosugi, Ben Miles and Rick Yune. It's not so much that they are bad, simply that they aren't ever given the chance to be good.
Much as the Wachowski's strangled all life, humanity and charm out of "Speed Racer," McTeigue has pummeled any sense of excitement and intrigue out of "Ninja Assassin," a film where CGI is enthusiastically and unnecessarily in scenes that practically scream out for old school Hollywood blood, sweat and tears that would have given the film, at the very least, a sense of actual grittiness that it really, really needs.
The script, reportedly rewritten by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski from Michael Sand's original in a grand total of 53 hours, feels, well, rushed, incoherent, nonsensical and, for lack of a better word, just plain stupid.
A weak entry into a holiday weekend likely to be dominated by repeated viewings of "Twilight Saga: New Moon" and a few diehard Disney fans determined to find humor in "Old Dogs," "Ninja Assassin" is likely looking at a quick trip through theatres followed by a much longer life on home video.
However, if this holiday weekend finds you in the mood for a film about ninja assassins then, by all means, "Ninja Assassin" is the film to see.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic