Every Sunday night, a big group of my friends gets together to watch Kung Fu films. We’ve been doing this for about 2 years now and have seen many, many, many movies. As a result we know way too much about way too many aspects of martial arts cinema. When we heard about Ninja Assassin, it seemed like the perfect film to get the group of regulars out to the theater. And it was… but for very different reasons than the filmmakers intended.
Every Sunday night, a big group of my friends gets together to watch Kung Fu films. We’ve been doing this for about two years now and have seen many, many, many movies. Some good, some not so good, some terrible, but we always have great fun. As a result we know way too much about way too many aspects of martial arts cinema. When we heard about Ninja Assassin, it seemed like the perfect film to get the group of regulars out to the theater. And it was… but for very different reasons than the filmmakers intended.
Over the two years of watching films each week, we quickly exhausted the genre classics. Films like Crippled Avengers, Fist of Fury, Enter the 36th Chamber, and even Police Story were dealt with pretty swiftly, and to great reaction. We watched more and more Shaw Bros. films, and we quickly discovered that when you’re a film studio that produced over 700 films in little more than 5 decades, you sometimes don’t have time for things like story and continuity. This led us to some of the crazier films of the early 80s. One in particular that will forever be one of most ridiculous films ever is Descendant of the Sun. This was a Shaw Bros. attempt to cash in on the Superman craze and mix it with fantasy Kung Fu. The result is so nonsensical and baffling, that it became amazing.
It is because of Descendant of the Sun that we were able to enjoy Ninja Assassin so much.
Ninja Assassin opens with a tense conversation between a couple people that leads to one of the goriest deaths I’ve seen in a long time. This firmly establishes that ninjas are badass. I don’t want to give away specific details because they barely exist in the film and really aren’t worth the time. The story follows a ninja (played by Korean pop star Rain) as he protects an investigator (Naomie Harris) from certain doom at the hands of ninjas. So the movie establishes early that it’s one ninja versus a small army of ninjas versus some sort of government cover up versus the leader of the ninja clan (Sho Kosugi) versus the audience.
Basically the film is an excuse to watch ridiculous amounts of ninja action, and in that it succeeds. There is much ninja combat, though at times the frenetic shooting style makes it hard to figure out what’s going on. Personally, I would have liked more time to appreciate the guy that got his legs cut off and fell off of them, or the army guy whose head was mowed off by a cloud of shruiken. It’s hard to convey how much blood is in the film. Blood flies all over the place, CG style, and people bleed oceans before dying. Sometimes people bleed oceans and live.
Yes, it’s that kind of a movie, but if you know that going in, it actually is a lot of fun.
Now, why did I give it a low rating? Isn’t having fun enough? Ordinarily yes, but the big flaw in this movie, is its false portrayal of ninja as a less-than-invincible force. In this film we see: a ninja caught with his mask off by surveillance cameras (wtf?), multiple ninjas hit with bullets, one hit by a car, and we even see a ninja cry. In the world of ninjas that I am familiar with ninjas are invincible, are invisible to cameras, can definitely not be stopped with a handgun, don’t get in traffic accidents, and never ever cry… not even a little bit. Also, again, this movie looks very expensive and legitimately makes no sense.
But then again, ninjas rule so much! Just remember to proceed with caution…you’ve been warned.
Ninja Assassin is rated R and runs 1 hour and 39 minutes. It is currently playing at Movieland, Commonwealth 20, UA West Tower 10, Westchester Commons 16, Virginia Center 20, Southpark Mall 16, Carmike 10, and Short Pump 15.