Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ninja Assassin – Not redundant, trust me

Its thanksgiving and I just finished eating my turkey, I wonder if I can bang this out before I pass out. Let’s take the chance…

The cast of Ninja Assassin reads like a who’s who of who? If you’re into Korean pop or by chance saw the brief rivalry he had with Stephan Colbert in 2007 you may know who Rain is. If you’ve seen the Brit-com coupling then you’ll recognized a slightly more aged Ben Miles, though to be fair, he’s the biggest name in this film. That’s not to say the acting is bad in Ninja Assassin, it’s not particularly great, but it’s about what you’d expect for an A budget B-movie. The focus is clearly on the action and it seems like a large chunk of the budget is put towards the CGI blood FX. Personally I’m a bigger fan of practical effects and would much rather see a gallon of real “blood” sprayed across the screen than a splattering of CGI blood that never lands and that has no possible way of maintaining it’s continuity, but I digress…

Let me say this first, Ninja Assassin is not a bad movie, though it did have a few faults, I’ll touch on those in a minute. The first two acts of this film were great. The opening scene is possibly one of the greatest bits of action I’ve seen in some time and the way Ninja Assassin plays with the ninja mythology is actually quite well done and does nothing to diminish my love for the darkness dwellers. The film tells the story of the ninja as that of supernatural beings, almost demons if you will. They slip in and out of shadows unseen and you’re standing there holding your heart before you can even see them.

Raizo (Rain) is a ninja of the Ozunu clan, Stolen as a child and trained to be a ninja under the guidance of the harsh clan leader. As is apt to happen with young boys and girls living together training to be ninjas, the young Kiriko falls for Raizo and helps heal his feet after an exceptionally brutal day of training. The flirtation never really develops beyond the occasional helping of the one another when they’re in trouble, but you can tell there’s something brewing under the surface. This all culminates the night Kiriko decides she’s going to leave the clan (apparently they frown upon this kind of thing in the clan). She kisses Raizo goodbye and scales the wall and of course, because they’re fucking ninjas, she’s brought back the following day to be dealt with. And dealt with she is, severely and poor Raizo can just sit there and watch.

This terrible event in his life apparently takes an awfully long time to matter to him and what seems like six or seven years later he decides to leave the clan after he’s called upon to “deal with” another fellow clansman who tries to leave. This is about where the real action starts, this is also where all the problems start, but I’ll get to those in just one more moment. Raizo successfully escapes and is living on the run, he also spends his days hunting down his former clansmen (get it? He’s an assassin of ninjas, a ninja assassin, if you will). At the same time (in a nearly pointless b storyline) Mika, A Europol agent, is uncovering a conspiracy going back a thousand years. Apparently the ninja can cover up all their trails except the paper trails left by bank deposits, yeah apparently ninjas accept wire transfers for payment for assassinations, who knew?

So aside from the fairly flimsy storyline, the film has a few other minor issues that struck me as rather irritating, A.) The director, James McTeigue, shoots the action so incredibly close that you may just get motion sickness trying to crane your head in the hopes you might catch a bit more of what the hell is going on! There are scenes in Ninja Assassin that if they had pulled back just two inches on the action you would have been hooting at how awesome the action is, but it was just lacking when you can barely tell what’s going on. This isn’t the entire movie, it seems to start around the time Raizo escapes the clan, I believe in that particular scene they zoom in and out so much that it’s like you’re watching an old home movie where your father is just discovering the zoom, I say your father because mine never bothered with most technology, but that’s another story all together. So here’s my advice to you Mr. McTeigue, pull it back a little bit, trust me you’ll be one of the best action directors in the market and everyone will love you. There are action scenes in NA that are shot wonderfully, so I know you can do it James. B.) I’m not going to spoil third act for you, so I will leave this complaint at this. The third act takes everything it builds up to with the first two acts and turns it on its ear. If they had followed the logical conclusion the story was heading this would have been an obvious five star movie, but sadly they do not and deservedly it does not get a five in my book…

Three assassinated ninjas out of five

Next up: Fantastic Mr. Fox - better be fantastic

P.S. Now I'm off to take a nap

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