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Director: James McTeigue
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Ninjas exist in the same strange mythological space as zombies, pirates and cowboys, with a rich visual tradition somehow totally divorced from historical and scientific fact. A ninja can be anything from an unskilled fighter in black pyjamas to an occult master of time and space. Ninjas have been mutant turtles, fat comedians and shadowy assassins but they’ve never been taken too seriously, as demonstrated in Ninja Assassin.
Ostensibly a serious revenge film, Ninja Assassin is filled with buckets of blood and flying limbs, clunky exposition, and gratuitous scenes of protagonist Rain exercising shirtless. This is a classic B movie disguised by slick production provided by the Wachowskis and direction courtesy of McTeigue, best known for his film version of V for Vendetta. In fact, Ninja Assassin feels like an extended version of the slickest fight sequences from that earlier film. That’s not to say the visuals are without fault, however, as most of the night scenes seem murky and under lit.
The acting is a mixed bag, with the film existing in a strange world where absolutely everyone speaks near-perfect English, including Japanese gangsters and German neighbours. Even the love interest, played by British actor Naomie Harris, speaks with an American accent (though she works in Berlin for an international law enforcement agency). I’m not asking for the whole film to be in Japanese (unreasonable for a primarily-American production) but why not have some of the characters speak their native language even occasionally?
The best parts of the film are also the rarest: good, clear ninja action. For a film called Ninja Assassin, there actually aren’t that many good fight sequences. There’s a good bloody opening fight scene but the film relies too much of murky CG and sloppy gunfights to be a truly satisfying ninja experience. I wasn’t too disappointed in this film (as my expectations weren’t that high) but it rarely rises above an average action film, even with some decent gore; interminable flashbacks and sloppy dialogue make it more of a slog.Colin Le Sueur