A yakuza kingpin and his posse have been murdered in ritual fashion, and Europol is hot on the trail. Young forensic researcher Mika (Pirates of the Carribean’s Naomie Harris) believes she’s found the link, and that link is ninjas. A tradition of killing for hire has existed for centuries, with the Yakuza killing as the latest event. Now, Mika and her boss, Maslow (Speed Racer’s Ben Miles) need to avoid an international conspiracy to get to the bottom of things.
Mika becomes the target for assassination, and her ninja theories are soon confirmed, as swordsmen in black pajamas storm the place. She is rescued by a rogue ninja, and the two are soon tracked by the members of the Ozunu clan. The ninja, Raizo (Speed Racer’s Rain), quit the clan when directed to kill an innocent woman. Now, he is on the run from the clan leader (Enter the Ninja’s Sho Kosugi), and the dozens of clan brothers and sisters.
Raizo’s back story is told through a series of flashbacks, including his early years training under the eyes of Ozunu. He fell in love, watched his love killed, and determined that, despite years of training, there was meaning outside of the clan. Raizo risks life and limb to protect Mika, kill all his competitors, and avenge the death of his one true love.
Ninja Assassin is chock full of post-production blood spatter, sound effects making throwing stars into surface-to-air missiles, and quick cuts reminiscent of Headbanger’s Ball. If Quentin Tarrantino hadn’t created Kill Bill, this film would be the right mix of Bruce Lee and bloodbath. Tarrantino’s two-part massacre has a better story, and bigger names, but Ninja Assassin comes close in terms of pure gore.
Ninja Assassin relies heavily on special effects. Who’d expect anything else from the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix). Writer J. Michael Strazynski (Babylon 5) provided a re-write six weeks before filming, and provides as much substance as any ninja movie’s ever had. Rain is in peak physical condition. He stated in a recent interview that he was thankful for a chance to eat after filming wrapped.
Ninja films aren’t the fast track to an Oscar. This movie is a 99-minute gore fest, below Kill Bill, but above hip-hop fighting movies like Cradle 2 the Grave. Martial artists and fans of the genre may be bummed by the massive amounts of CGI, the way wire work ruined Jackie Chan films. Still, anyone paying nine bucks to go see Ninja Assassin isn’t looking for the Kung Fu answer to the Godfather.
Ninja Assassin is an absolute bloodbath from the opening credits till the final scene. Fans should expect tons of action, enough story to connect the fight scenes, and plenty of shots of the titular eye candy. Not for the squeamish, but a good fit for fans of quick cut violence.