Ninja Day 2009: Movie review of Ninja Assassin
YES! Today, is Ninja Day, my friends! Finally, I wait all year to don the black pajamas and stalk around my neighborhood without getting arrested. The time is nigh!!
Yesterday, I talked about what makes a bad ass ninja, BAD ASS. Today, I’m going to talk about ninjas and the movies. There has been a long history of US ninja movies, but those have MOSTLY died out here in the US since the late ’80s. I loved all of those movies, roughly 90% of which starred the awesome, Sho Kosugi. However, despite some fairly recent movies having ninjas in them (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Elektra) there haven’t really been any ninja-centric movies in the last few years. This past Thanksgiving changed that trend with the release of the movie, Ninja Assassin. In honor of Ninja Day, I saw this movie and would like to review it.
So, the movie opens up with a pretty intense scene. You see these young Asian “gangster” types hanging out in their hideout playing pool and drinking. The leader is getting a tattoo and complaining about the needle hurting and being kind of a bitch about it. The crusty old dude giving the tattoo essentially says, maybe you aren’t man enough to get this tattoo. The young Asian leader of course pulls this ridiculously large pistol (fully plated in gold, mind you) and threatens to paint the ceiling with the crusty old guy’s brains. At this point, even people from space can see where this is headed. And after the delivery of a wax sealed envelope filled with black sand, every single one of the young toughs are systematically slaughtered in the most intensely violent ways. The first guy literally has half his head torn off by a blade flying so fast you only see the blur. And that’s how everyone else dies. You see mostly the dark blurs (ninja) and silvery blurs (ninja stars) as they reduce everyone in the room to a bloody pile of limbs. It’s fast, violent and every bit as balls out awesome as you think it’s going to be.
The crux of the story centers on the main character, Raizo (Japanese pop star, Rain), who was found as a child and raised by a grizzly, bad ass old ninja (Sho Kosugi) as one of a group of children inducted into an assassin’s clan. Most of Raizo’s time with the clan is told in flashbacks. We learn that due to an event in his past, Raizo tired of the way the old ninja master ruthlessly treated his students so he breaks from the clan. But Raizo is smart, he waits until his training is done so later on he can decapitate all his former classmates with a blade attached to a chain (yeah, it’s pretty awesome). After quitting, Raizo spends his time tracking his former clan’s movements and stopping their attempts at murdering people. Eventually an investigator “gets too close” to the truth (as investigators are known to do) about ninja assassin clans and she’s marked to be killed. Raizo protects her from his clan brothers and vows (and almost succeeds) to kill every last ninja in his clan on his way to killing his old master.
The movie is pretty good. It harkens back to the American-made ninja movies back in the ’80s that were so popular. Movies like Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, 9 Deaths of the Ninja and Pray for Death (all coincidentally starring Sho Kosugi).
And let me tell you, Sho Kosugi is fantastic in this. I loved him in all of those cheesy ’80s ninja movies I mentioned above, and I loved him in this. He is even better than I remember him being back in the day. Kosugi plays the unforgiving, hard-as-nails ninja master who pretty much tortures all of his students if they don’t follow his orders (and sometimes even if they do). I was just watching him in this movie and I was terrified of him (much less being one of his students). The dude is like 61 years old and he was more bad ass hardcore than most action movie stars 20 or 30 years his junior. The man is AWESOME.
And the star of the picture, Japanese pop star, Rain, is actually pretty good. Quiet, and appropriately bad ass when the killing needs to be done (and there’s lots of killing. And blood. And body parts). Very convincing as a ninja killer. Also, the dude is cut from granite. Take a look at the poster above. He must have worked out for months to be in this movie because he is all cut up like a pair of ’80s acid wash jeans.
Okay, so the main actors work. But how is the sweet, sweet ninja killing? It’s abundant, and it’s awesome. And gory. The violence in this movie is enhanced with buckets of CGI blood. It makes the killing almost seem cartoonish. But in the world of this movie, it works. In this world, ninjas must have forged like millions of stars because each of the ninjas in this movie throw hundreds of them at the speed of light towards their target. It’s insane the amount of stars that get tossed about this movie. And the ninjas can’t hit the broad side of a barn with any of them. You get a couple shoulder and leg shots here and there, but the majority of stars end up in walls, cars, windows, etc. And when they are thrown they leave speed trails behind them. It’s pretty awesome and it reminds me of the “rail guns” in the movie Eraser. Very cool. And all the fight action was well shot and choreographed and visually entertaining.
So, was there anything I didn’t like? Flashbacks. Well, not the flashbacks themselves, but how and when they were triggered. The actual flashback scenes were good and they were necessary to let you know the character’s backstory. However, they happen a lot, and at random points in the movie. At one point, Raizo is walking across the street, sees a car drive over a metal plate making a rhythmic sound, and this triggers a flashback. Another time he’s riding shotgun in a car right after killing like 100 ninjas and has a flashback. It’s a little odd, but like I said, the flashback scenes were good.
So, I can recommend this movie if you love action movies and ninjas. You will not be disappointed. The main star, Rain, is very convincing as a ninja assassin and the veteran Sho Kosugi is terrifyingly bad ass as the ninja mentor. Go into the movie prepared for a hyper violent cartoonishly bloody movie and you’ll get a fun ride.
Sho Kosugi: “Yes, I am a BAD ASS”
Hopefully this movie ushers in a new age of awesome, bloody ninja movies.
Happy Ninja Day everyone!
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