Friday, November 27, 2009

Ninja Assassin

The Return of the Ninjas
By Reymundo Salao


For centuries, the ninja has been haunting the shadows, and have been the most dreaded assassins that have survived throughout history. Our story centers upon Raizo, a wayward ninja who met an international police agent named Mika who has been investigating the existence of these assassins. And then, after a while, in the middle of the movie you get lost in where the original storyline is going. You realize that you’re just there to see some martial arts.

Almost too self-explanatory, NINJA ASSASSIN is a martial arts movie involving ninjas, and is set in the real world. This is produced by Andy and Larry Wachowski (better known as the Wachowski Brothers) who created the iconic Matrix universe, and is directed by James McTeiguie, director of V for Vendetta (also produced by the Wachowski brothers. Ninja Assassin has that 80's corny style of an action movie that focuses more on the action, the incredibility and the exaggeration of the violence, and a laughably lame back story. And that is the reason why I love this movie.

In order to really enjoy this, you should have a love for B-movie ninja flicks (like "Way of the Ninja" or "American Ninja"). McTeigue tends to be a more mellow version of Tarantino when he works on movies like this; in a sense that while Tarantino loves to pay homage to classic action movies and emphasizes on the more stylistic and the more absurd aspects in order to create a semi-comedic effect that amuses its audience with some element of quirkiness, McTeigue, on the otherhand, pays homage but does it in a style more adjusted to today's audience, so much so that it does not look like an homage because it does not wink at you (with exaggerations and jokes) and indicates it as an homage. In this movie, for instance, one may think that it lacks a good plot, or some aspects may be silly, but what you may not easily realize is that all this is intentional because it takes its reference back from the cheesy ninja movies of the 1980s.

Because of the fact that this pays homage to old b-movie ninja movies, it's easier to ignore some of the movie's flaws. Rain's acting, for instance is just plain awful. He is as corny as that shampoo commercial he was in. It's a good thing that he looks great as an action hero. His stances, the way he looks when he's all battered up, bruised, bleeding, and still kicking ass... he has a stunning iconic presence in this movie. That is just it, though, don’t let him act a dialogue because it discourages any other future acting career he might have. But on the other hand, I might add that Rain's acting was at least good enough to erase his somewhat effeminate, boyband image on interviews and in other media appearances, note that Rain is a Korean pop star. But as the ninja named Raizo, he does shed off that pop star image and transforms himself into this "manly man" brooding action hero, one which action barbarians can root for.

It was almost such an ecstatic joy to see Sho Kosugi in a ninja role once again. To action junkies and to true ninja movie fanatics out there, you may remember Sho Kosugi as the original 1980's icon for ninja movies. Kosugi was the ninja movie icon, as like Bruce Lee or Jacky Chan was to Kung-fu movies. And I remember him being one of my movie heroes when I was a kid.

NINJA ASSASSIN is one of those movies that you feel is quite a superb action movie and then 30 minutes after you’ve watched it, the effect runs out and you realize it was not really that much of a great film. There wasn’t really anything all too special about the movie. It could have at least added some humor in it to at least give it some more appeal, because for a movie that pays homage to a cheesy genre of film, it was just too serious. Even the hardcore aspect of the characters lacked some hardcore soul. It was like trying to cook the same recipe of the movie 300, but this one seemed like it needed to be brought back to the oven. On the other hand, its shortcomings does not change the fact that it was indeed a worthwhile and entertaining action movie. Visually impressive and is well packaged with action. McTeigue smartly uses his control of motion speed, CGI, and fight choreography in a manner that makes ninja movies of the 80’s be revived with today’s advances in cinema, and reintroduced to a new breed of action film junkies. Ninja Assassin is an enjoyable movie for action and martial arts junkies. It is certainly not for those who are looking for a serious movie. Because this appeals more to the comicbook, superhero crowd or the film geeks familiar with ninjas. Though it is not destined for greatness, but it sure is worth the money and the time.