Ninja Assassin (2009)

Andy and Lana Wachowski have always been synonymous with breath-taking, eye-popping visual effects and stylish, innovative filming techniques. Here they bring on a flair for stylised dark and moody storytelling. They simultaneously bring a rising young star to fame with impressive results in this beloved cultish ninja movie. Ninja Assassin” also featured in our Top 10 Ninja Movies.

Trailer

Cast

Former Korean boy band member Rain, plays Raizo a skilled ninja warrior who as an orphan child was accepted into the Ozunu clan and trained as a ninja; now he seeks revenge for his clan’s actions. Martial arts screen legend Sho Kosugi makes a welcome return to the big screen as Lord Ozunu hunting Raizo for betraying his clan.

Helping the young warrior to track down his former master and fellow students is Europol agent Mika Correti played by Miss Moneypenny herself Naomie Harris. British television and stage actor Ben Miles is Mika’s superior agent Ryan Maslow.

Man with the Iron Fists” star Rick Yune plays Ozunu assassin Takeshi with whom Raizo has a score to settle.

Plot

Disillusioned ninja warrior Raizo, seeks violent retribution against his former mentor Lord Ozunu and teams up with a Europol agent to bring down his former clan.

Action

The Wachowskis spearheading a mystical ninja story promises and delivers some stylish shock and gore with an opening segment setting the tone for the film’s bloody yet stylish ultra-violent action.

The film has a sleek and moody feel embodying the heavy textures of a graphic novel. Yet scrutinising eyes would no doubt fall on the film’s star, Rain in his first and only martial arts role in which he doesn’t disappoint. His training under the film’s team of fight and stunt co-ordinators clearly paid off. Sporting a lean and well defined physique, Rain looks every part the purposeful warrior with some amazing skills to boot.

Although the plot is basic, splitting the film’s first half between the present and Raizo’s heartfelt and sad backstory works effectively. The film capitalises on the ninja mystique, showing them in flashback, undergoing a sadistic, hardcore training regimen, from a young age that would make the Spartans of “300” look wimpy. In the present day the ninja’s powers are embellished to reinforce that mystique showing them at their most limber and unforgiving. One scene in a warehouse sees a SWAT team slowly look up to see ninjas emerging from the dark uttering chilling whispers then unleashing a barrage of CGI shurikens cutting the team down into pieces.

The fight choreography itself features predominantly classic fast-paced wushu moves that are exhilarating and dynamic. Scenes featuring Raizo twirling and swinging a lethal looking shogei as well as a pair of ninjatos are jaw dropping and with a touch of slo-mo, look almost supernatural. Each fight scene is bigger than the last right up to the storming of Ozunu’s compound. Europol SWAT teams and ninjas showering each other with bullets and steel shurikens is exciting yet overshadowed by the anticipated showdown between Ozunu and Raizo. This moment could have been a little longer as Kosugi alone was great to watch both for his thespian and martial skill but seeing him in a Hollywood action film again is worth the DVD purchase price alone.

Summary

If you like your ninja action served on a dramatically moody-broody plate with a generous side order of body parts smothered in blood, then this is the film for you! “Ninja Assassin” is light on substance yet heavy on style -the Wachowskis excel in mood and in style here, which is part of the film’s charm.

There is plenty of martial arts mayhem flowing as frenetically as the film’s blood and body parts, with some humorous macabre moments thrown in for good measure. The actors carry the film as does the fight action, and Rain makes an excellent brooding ninja. So, grab the popcorn, switch off the lights (and the brain) turn up the sound on your AV system and enjoy a visceral treat!

Trivia

  • Rain hadn’t had prior martial arts experience. For six months he underwent extensive training in martial arts, weapons handling as well as weights and cardio vascular training.
  • The film’s wire rigging specialist (Peng Zhang) has worked on films such as “Kick Ass” and “47 Ronin”.
  • Martial arts choreographer and stunt co-ordinator Chad Stahelski trained in Jeet Kune Do at the Inosanto Academy with the late Brandon Lee. He doubled for Lee in “The Crow” and Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix” trilogy.
  • Jonathan Eusebio has also served as fight choreographer for “John Wick” and “Blade II”.
  • Stunt performer John Vallera, a practitioner of freestyle Karate, Taekwondo and Kenpo has worked on “Man of Tai Chi” and the “Rush Hour” TV series.

Film Rating: 8/10

Ever since he first saw the great Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon on the big screen whilst living in Iran, Ramon has been fascinated with martial arts, and at age 6 attended classes in Kan Zen Ryu Karate under Sensei Reza Pirasteh. When he moved to the UK, martial arts came calling in his early teens in the shape of the mysterious art of Ki Aikido which he studied for five years. Since then he has practiced Feng Shou Kung Fu, Lee Style Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing before returning to Aikido, studying under Sensei Michael Narey. As well as Bruce Lee, Ramon is a big fan of martial arts actors Jackie Chan, Cynthia Rothrock, Jeff Wincott, Richard Norman and Tadashi Yamashita to name a few. Ramon is an aspiring writer and when he is not honing his craft he likes to go out running, hiking and is still trying to count to ten in Japanese.

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Strydent October 26, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Good review!
    Just one issue…
    The film was PRODUCED by the Wachowskis and Directed by James McTeigue.
    He was their Assistant director on many of their films including the Matrix trilogy.
    He is probably most responsible for much of the visual flair that we’ve come to associate with the Wachowskis and proof lies in his films V for Vendetta and Ninja Assassin.
    All the super crisp, slo-mo complete with motion trails….
    The really clean choreography…as well as the nods to both anime combat as well as older HK martial arts film combat mixed with Chanbara film goodness.
    It’s pretty much all him.
    Anyway, thank you for your reviews.
    It’s nice to finally find a site with reviews of films I love too and reviews written well, that show the same passion I have for the Genre!

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