Nov 23, 2009

[Movies] Ninja Assassin (2009)

Ninja AssassinNinja hold an almost mythical status in terms of popular culture for pretty good reasons. Let's face it - the idea of various orders of covert assassins, spies and generally secretive warriors can blow the mind sometimes and many movies and TV shows have taken advantage of that support to help cement the ninja's place in our shared social consciousness.

But as with anything touched by so many people (and creative people at that!), the true story of the ninja has become warped and twisted over time to result in some pretty comical and humorous iterations and alternative versions. Many filmmakers and TV producers opt to pick and choose which parts of the ninja mythos appeal to them in order to come up with a somehow filtered, streamlined version of the ninja that is more easily accepted (and marketed) by the majority of the population.

Thus what is now considered the stereotypical ninja may not necessarily be Asian concept in itself - in fact, the modern ninja we so often encounter in cartoons, movies and TV shows is more of a twisted Western version of the original idea.

Ninja Assassin is the latest movie from Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers (yes, the creative team behind the Matrix and Speed Racer movies) that follows the story of Raizo (Rain), a deadly assassin trained by the Ozunu Clan of ninjas from a very young age.

At first it seems that Europol agent Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) may have stumbled across the assassinations conducted by the ninja clans over the past century. Despite the skepticism of her boss Ryan Maslow (Ben Miles), she continues her investigation and ultimately becomes a target of the ninja clans given the information that she has now gathered. Raizo manages to save her from a fellow ninja and reveals that he was no longer working for his clan and was also trying to bring them down. Thus the two of them work together to try and figure out how best to deal with the Ozunu Clan while on the run from their assassins.

Ack - I don't quite like my synopsis up there, but that's how confusing the movie can get sometimes. It's a bit tricky trying to figure out how to put all that into a single paragraph without getting into what may be considered to be "spoilers" or other such information of that nature.

First, the biggest draw to this movie is the presence of the actor Rain, of whom I'm not a very big fan of, but that's me. I'll admit he was rather hot and was required a lot more speaking lines here compared to Speed Racer, which he delivered fairly decently. There were times that his hotness seemed a bit too CGI or make-up augmented while my fellow geeks who watched the premiere with me indicated it was probably due to shifting lens types in order to distort / lengthen his body to give him more height and possibly definition.

The story as a whole was...well, very Matrix. I'm not talking about it being a mind-blowing concept that is so game-changing and out of this world. I'm talking more about how it was decent on its own but had some really bad, campy, weird, illogical moments. So yes, there are parts of the movie that make just about as much sense as Trinity telling Neo that he can't die because she loves him and the Oracle told her she'd fall in love with the One, ergo, Neo is the One. It's convoluted logic like this that can really make your day.

The movie embraces all the classic stereotypes of hijinks of ninja in Western entertainment, and created some more of its own. It was a power struggle between really cool moments like how the ninjas blend so well into the shadows and bad ones like the fact that they slowly emerge like they're zombies instead of just killing their targets right away.

One of the worst moments of them all has been seen in the trailer - NINJAS RUNNING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET!

This movie is not meant to be taken seriously, especially if you're a major fan of Japanese culture and ninjas in general. This is a campy action movie that has been dumbed down for the masses but it doesn't mean it's not entertaining - it's just not all that fulfilling in an intellectual sense. Plus you and your friends are bound to have loads of fun spotting all the ridiculous moments in the movie and mockingly repeating them after the credits roll.

Note to Philippine viewers: the MTRCB was pretty liberal in its cuts in order to support the film distributors probably pushing for an R-13 rating when it should have at least gotten an R-18 rating. So yes, even the epic final battle has some pretty sloppy cuts that take away from the cartoon gore that we hope to enjoy from such movies. You may want to re-watch this on video when you get the chance.

Ninja Assassin gets 3.5 Western ninja cliches out of a possible 5.

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1 comment:

Haochi said...

I have free tickets to see Ninja Assassin tonight but I guess I will stay in since you are only giving it a 3.5. Thanks! :)

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