Movie Review: Ninja Assassin (2009)

Rain in Ninja Assassin
Photo: Warner Bros.

To imagine James McTeigue could make something so intelligent and entertaining as V for Vendetta and then devolve into the pile of garbage that is Ninja Assassin is staggering. Vendetta is one of my favorite comic book/graphic novel adaptations and yet McTeigue’s sophomore effort makes it seem like he learned nothing as he delivers this dark and mindless so-called ninja revenge feature.

The story follows the Ozunu Ninja Clan and how one of their own, Raizo (played by Korean pop star Rain), has gone AWOL and instead of going into hiding he is setting out to exterminate them for killing his ninja girlfriend. Mika (Naomie Harris), a crack Europol agent in Berlin, is along for the ride as the overtly Hollywood portion of the story. She stumbles onto a money trail leading her to suspect underground ninjas have been behind several recent political assassinations. I mean, of course it’s ninjas right?

Once word of Mika’s investigation gets out she becomes a target, is saved by Raizo and the two get in a series of madcap stupidity from there on out ending in ninja stars that fly through the air like bullets and Europol agents that blow up hidden temples with actual bullets. For what is supposed to be a ninja film this felt more like every other shoot ’em up out there. Except with this one the lights were turned out and the battles were fought in the shadows.

The acting isn’t even worth mentioning outside of saying Rain hardly speaks in anything more than one-syllable words and Naomie Harris stumbles through each and every scene with the dexterity of a four-year-old with her shoelaces tied together. It’s just as good these two don’t bring anything to the film considering McTeigue isn’t interested in them in the slightest. What’s more interesting is turning out the lights, suggesting stealth movement and raining down dark red droplets of CGI blood. Sound good to you? Good, because that’s really all you’re getting.

Ninja stars whiz through the darkness tearing apart their enemies as if shot out of a Gatling gun. Oftentimes the ninjas are reduced to smoke and only seen when Raizo is slicing them to bits. When the lights do come up, it’s for battle sequences amongst burning flames as CG weaponry makes its way around the room adding very little appeal to a film that really has nothing to say or do with itself.

Ninja Assassin gets caught up in the present while the stories of the past would have been far more entertaining. Once Europol entered the picture and our ninjas were relegated to shadows in the darkness bettling agents with guns the film loses any and all appeal. This one is merely a means to put excessive gore on the screen and while there are a couple of decent fight sequences, the rest is just a blurry mess of noise and darkness hardly worth your time.