Ryu’s Musings – Ninja Assassin DVD (18)


Actors: Rick Yune, Naomie Harris, Rain, Sho Kosugi 
Directors: James McTeigue
Language: English
Subtitles: Arabic, English, Greek, Hebrew, Icelandic, Italian, Dutch
Classification: 18
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: 17 May 2010
Run Time: 95 minutes

Ninja Assassin follows Raizo (Rain), one of the deadliest assassins in the world. Taken from the streets as a child, he was transformed into a trained killer by the Ozunu Clan, a secret society whose very existence is considered a myth. But haunted by the merciless execution of his friend by the Clan, Raizo breaks free from them, and vanishes. Now he waits, preparing to exact his revenge.

In Berlin, Europol agent Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) has stumbled upon a money trail linking several political murders to an underground network of untraceable assassins from the Far East. Defying the orders of her superior, Ryan Maslow (Ben Miles), Mika digs into top secret agency files to learn the truth behind the murders. Her investigation makes her a target, and the Ozunu Clan sends a team of killers, led by the lethal Takeshi (Rick Yune), to silence her forever. Raizo saves Mika from her attackers, but he knows that the Clan will not rest until they are both eliminated. Now, entangled in a deadly game of cat and mouse through the streets of Europe, Raizo and Mika must trust one another if they hope to survive, and finally bring down the elusive Ozunu Clan.

Ninja Assassin stars Korean pop star Rain (Speed Racer) as the central character, Raizo; Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) as Europol researcher Mika Coretti; Ben Miles (V for Vendetta) as Europol Agent Ryan Maslow; legendary martial arts performer Sho Kosugi (Revenge of the Ninja) as the ruthless leader of the Ozunu Clan; and Rick Yune (Die Another Day) as Raizo’s rival, Takeshi.

(Preview vid below the cut)


General Musings:

I have to admit that I was in two minds over this movie. A lot of western made ninja style movies usually end up being more cheesy than their Japanese counter parts, and painful to watch. However this movie had several things going for it that made me willing to give it a try.

Firstly, it has Rain in it, I’ve seen a few of his films and have found him to be an excellent actor who excels at bringing his part to life. Secondly, and probably more importantly for me, it has Sho Kosugi as the baddie. I don’t think I’ve yet seen a movie where he fails to impress. Finally, it’s screenplay was done by J. Michael Straczynski, of Babylon 5 fame. When all of these elements are mixed into a movie how can one not buy it.

The movie is rated 18, but i think that’s just them being cautious. There’s no sex or nudity, just loads of fighting. I’ve seen worse in some 16 titles, but after watching it through a few times it’s easy to see why they gave it the 18 rating.

Like a lot of films I’ve seen lately this one seems to be going back to the olden days of the 80’s, in one respect at least. However i have to admit that unlike the 80’s movies, this one works well.

All the elements needed to make a great movie are here, we have a lead character who not only looks awesome, but also fits the role he’s playing. Rain makes a perfect rogue assassin, everything about him screams deadly intent, and when we see him training in his apartment it’s easy to see why he’s feared.

The special effects are…..a matter of taste. For what they are i thought they were done really well, they fit the story well, and don’t look crap. However at times i though they were over used, and at other times i thought they were miss-used.

This was especially true when it came to the throwing stars, which were bloody huge, and frankly looked like they were shot out of a canon rather than thrown by hand.

The fight scenes in this movie are bloody amazing, martial arts fights in just about every place you can think of, from cramped and cluttered rooms, to streets to warehouses. The way Rain and his attackers adapted and used the surroundings was really well choreographed.

One of the best things about this movie is that it uses bullet-time, and uses it a lot better than when it was used in Matrix. The way it changes from fast action, to the slow mo and then back again is handled really well, and only helps heighten the atmosphere.

Naomie Harris’s character did take some getting used to. She starts off as a researcher for Europol, and initially her character is great. I liked how she stumbles upon the clans, researches them and does all the grunt work to find out about them. But over the course of the movie i found i was liking her less and less, something about her just seemed off. I finally realised what it was on my third watch, it’s the way she changed over the course of the movie. She goes from being scared all the time, to being G.I Jane running around saving the lead. This rather drastic change just doesn’t sit right with me, and while i won’t say i hate her, I was a bit disappointed. That said i liked her more than Ben Miles’ character who frankly feels like nothing more than an extra, thrown in there to give a slight change of pace.

Another aspect of the movie i found a bit disappointing was the way they handled the flash-backs. While i understand the need for them to be there, given how short the time of a movie is, the constant back and forth did break the atmosphere at times. However it does give a lot of insight into Rain’s character and makes the ending all the more touching.

So, what was the bit that was a throw back to the 80’s? It’s the way they handled the fight scenes. Whenever he cut something we’d get buckets full of blood gushing all over the place. It did make the fight scenes look awesome, especially when they went into slow mo at times. Yet at the same time you can’t help but think if people lost that much blood when they lost a foot or arm, then the word population would be a lot less.

Also as i said, the shuriken used in this movie are a bit insane. In every movie, anime, and manga I’ve seen they’ve always been fairly small things. Only a very few were large oversized ones, mainly because these are supposed to be stealth weapons. Nothing stealthy about throwing around dinner plate sized shuriken, not to mention running around carrying thousands of them, since the number used in the fight scenes is rather insane as well.

But, who cares about that, several scenes where they’re used (such as the car chase) looks absolutely mind blowing with the stars flying everywhere.

All told this was an excellent movie that i thoroughly enjoyed and will most likely watch again from time to time. What’s more the movie is rather cheap for us brits, costing only £6.99 at the minute (or cheaper on Amazon), and comes in three forms. The standard DVD, Blu-ray and digital download coming from iTunes and BlinkBox.

I also think this has the potential to make an excellent TV series, or possibly a few more movies, since in this movie Rain and Europol only actually take down one of the nine clans, it leaves eight others to play around with. I hope we get to see more at some point in the future.

Author: Ryu Sheng