the ninja, you must first undergo the ritual of purification,
suffering the winds, the blistering heat of the raging fire,
the stings and blows of cane that will purge you of your
free will and emotions that will get in the way of your
achieving perfection. To understand Ninja Assassin,
you need to know that he's a ninja. That assassinates other
ninja. And that's awesome.
Starring Korean pop sensation Rain, Ninja
Assassin really has little more on its mind than mayhem,
sweat and CG blood. Under the watchful eyes of the famed
Wachowskis, director James McTeigue has framed a dark story
of …well, again, pretty much just ninjas attacking for reasons
that don't matter much.
What he has really done has turned ninjas
into monsters. For the first time, these creatures of myth
are practically creatures. In an hilariously over the top
opener, young Yakuza laugh when they receive an envelope
full of black sand, allegedly the calling card of the ninja.
But a terrified old tattoo artist (Randall Duk Kim) tells
of the legend that no one will believe, of surviving their
onslaught only because he has that rare - but frequent in
movies - condition of having his heart on the wrong side
of his body.
As the laughter rings out, it's quickly
silenced by the ssssshhhhinnnngggg of a blade working its
way through bone at high speed. Body parts slide and fly,
and soon the work of the ninja has been accomplished.
But somewhere at an international police
organization, one woman (Naomie Harris) has put together
that the ninja exist! Still killing people for the price
of one hundred pounds of gold, as they have for a millennium,
the ninja clan are exactly who you want to call when you
want to get rid of a world leader. Does the CIA have a ninja
budget? Just askin'.
Soon she, too, gets that dreaded envelope
of black sand, but luckily there's Rain as Raizo the rogue
ninja to save her. To give the guy his due, he wears bruises
and welts extremely well. Few people can make that kind
of intense pain look good, not even Taylor Lautner. He can
even be half-disemboweled, and he still might qualify for
the cover of GQ, or at least Men's Fitness.
But he's also laboring under the likely
problem that he isn't exactly an actor fluent in English,
so Oscar-nominated screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski -
hey, so he took the paycheck - has to keep Raizu's dialogue
to a minimum. Mostly he says, "hurry up," "come here" and
"I'm beginning to like you," though that last one doesn't
always come across as sincere.
Yet there's something just a little wrong
about featuring an actor so limited that in flashbacks of
only a few years previously, you have to use another actor
to play the younger version so that we can understand the
Ninja Assassin goes a long way to
dispel some popular misconceptions about these black-clad
monsters. For example, I always assumed that "silent as
a ninja" meant silent. It actually means that they hiss
the words "kill" and "ninja" everywhere they go. That would
probably make them awkward party guests. It also turns out
that they can heal any wound by playing "here is the church,
here is the steeple, open the door and see all the people."
I tried that and just got a finger cramp.
They also don't spill real blood. Instead,
it's a combination of bright red paint and computer graphics,
poorly composited so apparently they don't actually have
to be in the same room with you as they're trying to kill
you. In all seriousness, if it looks that bad on the big
screen, McTeigue, it's going to be awful with the unforgiving
nature of HDTV.
not Shakespeare. It's not meant to be Shakespeare. And god
help me, I fear it's so compelling in its inanity that when
it shows up on cable, it's going to be one of those movies
that you channel flip and find yourself helpless to stop
watching. How can you not love a movie with a tagline so
pretentious -- "Fear not the weapon but the hand that
Yet once upon a time, these movies would
sort of slink into theaters on a double or triple bill and
then years later Quentin Tarantino would pay homage to them.
Something's very wrong when these are getting made by talented
filmmakers on purpose.
So ladies, I think I'm going to shut up
about The Twilight Saga for at least a week. Or a