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DVD Review: Ninja Assassin

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James McTeigue’s Ninja Assassin is pure B-movie fun. A bloodfest from start to finish, this martial arts movie was produced by Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers and features Korean superstar Rain as the deadly hero. Ninja Assassin has all of the ingredients required to make a rollicking, gory, mindless Saturday afternoon flick destined to air about 7,000 times on Spike TV and it delivers the goods in just about every department necessary.

The Wachowskis have been the producers of choice for over-the-top actioners, so it stands to reason that they’d try to move into the shadows with this resurrection of the ninja movie. Many of the same tricks used in The Matrix films and in V for Vendetta are present in Ninja Assassin, but this film packs a bit more of a violent wallop and is significantly thinner on the plot elements.

Rain stars as Raizo, one of the deadliest assassins in the world. He was raised by the Ozunu Clan to be a deadly killer, but a love interest eventually forces him to start reconsidering his path in life. When tragedy strikes, Raizo seeks his own freedom and turns against the Clan. Led by his destructive father, Lord Ozunu (Sho Kosugi), the Ozunu Clan seeks out their revenge on Raizo for his presumed betrayal.

Soon we are introduced to Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris), a Europol agent investigating political assassinations. She discovers a clan of ninjas that seem to be behind a considerable amount of the deaths and seeks more information. This, of course, leads her into the path of Raizo and the Ozunu Clan. A series of fight sequences and chases lead the way to the usual standoffs, while Mika discovers something about herself that is most unusual.

Ninja Assassin is a gory, effective cult film that does its part to bring the ninja movie back. Whether the world is ready for ninja movies again is questionable, however, but much of McTeigue’s picture flies in the face of the clunky, motorized giant robot science fiction stories many action fans are used to. This is vintage stuff, thank goodness, and Ninja Assassin feels like a gruesome homage to those great action pictures of the '90s in which the heroes always won and the baddies always died fabulously grisly deaths.

Rain is interesting as the hero here and he proves that he’s a viable enough entertainer. He’s on target as the deadly ninja, never showing too much emotion but always offering a little sliver of humanity. There’s absolutely zero chemistry between him and either female character in the movie, but this isn’t a film about relationships or interactions. It is, of course, a film about blood, shadows, swords, and more blood.

It’s interesting to read the “Consensus” over at Rotten Tomatoes concerning Ninja Assassin. Considering this movie to be “overly serious” is a bit of a stretch, as McTeigue’s flick is so in on its own joke that it even offsets one of the bloodier scenes with a sudden splattering of ketchup over a character’s lunch. Indeed, Ninja Assassin is far from a stern action movie and its persistent pursuit of emaciated plotlines and chopped bodies keeps things moving at a breakneck pace.

The type of picture that goes great with a few cold ones and a big bucket of popcorn, Ninja Assassin pulls out all the stops on its way to ninja movie cool. It even reintroduces us to Sho Kosugi, who graced us with a series of 1980s martial arts movie marvels like Revenge of the Ninja and the modernized Zatoichi update Blind Fury. McTeigue’s Ninja Assassin doesn’t set out to reinvent the wheel, but it is a fun ultraviolent throwback to a time when movies were measured by the buckets of blood and the amount of severed limbs that littered the floor after a fight scene.

The standard DVD release is pretty basic and includes a handful of deleted scenes, none of which are of any consequence. Ninja Assassin is also available on Blu-ray Combo Pack.

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