Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ninja Assassin

Every so often, a movie lets you know whether or not you will like it within the first five minutes.  If you like seeing people being sliced into bits with ridiculous amounts of obviously CGI blood on the screen, then this movie is for you.  If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, then perhaps you shouldn't watch a movie with the words "ninja" and "assassin" in the title.  Speaking of the which, I'm pretty sure the working title was *Redundant Ninja Redundant*

The lead in this movie is Korean pop star Rain, known for his brief time as Stephen Colbert's nemesis
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as well as his role in the movie Saibogujiman Kwenchana, which translates into "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK."  Oh Asia, how amusingly random you are.  There are other actors in this movie, with such diverse talent as Rick Yune (The Fast and the Furious) and Sung Kang (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift).  The real talent on display though, is the violence.  This might be the most gratuitous use of stylistic violence since Riki-Oh: the Story of Ricky.  To put it another way, this movie is so ridiculously over-the-top violent that, when Rain does some sweet moves and completely cuts a man in half, you won't stop to rewind it because you just know something even bigger will happen in a few minutes.  I have to say that this film embraces ridiculous violence with more joy than any new release in years; the amount of blood makes even Kill Bill: Volume 1 look realistic.  It's not a huge surprise, coming from director James McTeigue (V For Vendetta), but it is a pleasant one.

What?  You want a plot?  It's called Ninja Assassin!  What do you expect, a script by a Hugo Award winner?  Well, that's what you get from two-time winner and top-tier comic book writer J. Michael Straczynski.  Apparently, JMS opted to forget about his writing history when co-writing this script, but it does have about half of the movie (45 minutes) devoted to plot development.  Apparently, ninja clans kidnap orphans and raise them to be ninjas.  Training to be a ninja isn't much fun.  Frowny face emoticon!  In some states, it might even border on child abuse.  Rain decides to rebel, which means killing his entire clan.  Of course it does.  There are some British people that act as point of view characters, but they are ultimately disposable.  Unfortunately, they manage to get the British military involved, so there is a scene where ninjas fight tanks and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare-esque ground troops without the benefit of shadows.  That sucks.  But it's the only action scene that doesn't fully deliver.

What do you get with this movie?  About 45 minutes or so of super violent death and dismemberment.  Sure, there's a plot, but it's not important.  Go make some popcorn or go on a beer run (just don't leave until the first scene is over).  By the time you're done, things will be just about ready to rock.  Sure, they needlessly lengthen the movie by shoehorning a plot into it, but this is a film that knows exactly what it is (Hollywood pitch: "Ninjas kill stuff --- the movie!") and delivers with a smile.  I just wish the whole movie was as totally awesome as the opening scene.

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