- Directed by James McTeigue
- November 25, 2009
A disillusioned assassin is looking for retribution against his former mentor and his path intersects with a young Europol agent.
Ninja Assassin is an amazing neo noir martial arts thriller that does not get the love and praise it deserves. It is just an amazing example of action-oriented filmmaking with style and panache and a sense of possibility despite the general outlandish nature of the whole story. And the characters are much better done for something on the surface looks like it should be rather shallow.
Our hero Raizo (Rain) is a ninja on the run from his clan who conversely seeks revenge upon them not only for the torment they put him through but for the murder of his love Kiriko (Anna Sawai) as punishment for the wrong she committed against the clan. That wrong? Wanting to leave.
In the story Raizo is eventually paired with Europol agent Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) who has uncovered hints of ninja activity but gets stonewalled or just comes up on dead ends when she looks into it. In this story the ninjas are implied to be still active to this day carrying out assassinations for governments or anyone that can pay them 100 pounds of gold which appears to be a price that has remained unchanged for as far back as the story delves into its fictional past.
While Mika is certainly out of her element here when it comes to dealing with ninjas, she’s not necessarily weak. She makes the most of what she can and uses her skills to aid the hero not only his quest but in her quest as well.
This movie is very heavy on blood squids augmented with a generous helping of CGI. Going with the stylized nature of the movie, what blood they show tends to be bright red like paint rather than something that looks more realistic. This is some amazingly choreographed and just overall well-done martial arts action. The fights are crazy and frenetic with a fair share of creative elements such as the tail end of a car being used to save the hero.
There’s a cool opening scene which bears a little on the overall narrative of the film other than nicely setting up the mythology and logic they will follow as well as providing a hint of how one character will survive. There is an implication that that both may be related but they don’t delve into the possibility.
A great deal of the story is told in flashbacks to set the rivalry between Takeshi (Rick Yune) and Raizo as well as the animosity between the clan leader Lord Ozunu (the legendary Sho Kosugi) and Raizo. One just sees him as a rival ninja while the other sees him as a son and possible heir who disgraced the clan by tossing it all away.
Ninja Assassin isn’t heavy on the supernatural but there is some implication of the supernatural or superhuman. The ninjas seem to be part of the shadows when they appear and their ability to disappear in the light does not occur when a character looks away but can happen right when they are face to face. And to truly make it obvious that these are more than human individuals Raizo after he is captured at one point heals like Wolverine before arriving at his destination.
This is a vengeance driven narrative. Both sides are seeking a final confrontation for wrongs both real and perceived. And neither side is willing to back down. More importantly-and this is always important in a good movie-the hero and villain are philosophically opposed. They do not see eye to eye. They’re not just different shades of a similar philosophy.
Despite the high quality of the acting and the story and the action, Ninja Assassin seems to have slipped through the cracks. It’s just one of those great movies that begs repeat viewing. If you can find this, I suggest you give it a look. This is a must see for all fans of action.