Genre:  Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Triller

Director: James McTeigue

Writers: Matthew Sand, J. Michael Straczynski

Cast: Rain, Naomie Harris, Sho Kosugi, Sung Kang, Ben Miles

MPAA Rating: R (for strong bloody stylized violence throughout, and language)

Summary. Trained since childhood to be a lethal killer, Raizo has since turned his back on the Ozunu clan that raised him and now seeks revenge for their heartless murders. Teaming up with Europol investigator Mika, Raizo steadily butchers his enemies while inching ever closer to the long-awaited bloody reunion with his former master.

Run Time:  99 minutes

[This review contains spoilers.]

“Ninjas? Are you f*cking kidding me?”

-approximation of Sung Kang’s line from “Ninja Assassin”

Apparently, ninjas live among us and there are clans of them that exist as assassins for hire to whomever can pay the price- 100 pounds of gold.

Ninja Assassin” stars Korean pop star, Rain (Speed Racer), as the central character, an orphan that had taken in by a clan of ninja assassins and renamed Raizo.  Through flashbacks, you see how and why he becomes the man that he is.  He breaks from the clan and is determined to bring down the father figure of the clan, played by Sho Kosugi.  His path crosses with Mika (Naomie Harris) with Europol, an international police agency, who is investigating strange assassinations.

The film is directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Matrix, Speed Racer) and produced by Joel Silver (V for Vendetta, Veronica Mars, Matrix) and the Wachowski Brothers (Matrix trilogy, V for Vendetta, Speed Racer).

Even with these high-powered names behind this film, it only sort of lives up to the hype.  The recent trailers and clips released show a much more promising action film, but I must admit that when I saw the first trailer for this from Comic Con, I thought this one looked so bad that I didn’t even want to waste my time, but heck, I am always after good martial arts films!


Where to even begin on the flaws of “Ninja Assassin”?  The film is not well written in the aspect that the dialogue is just atrocious!  You’d think perhaps it was done on purpose, but it seemed like they were taking this film seriously.  If it were tongue-in-cheek style deliberately, it could have been a much more entertaining time at the movies, but as it was, the dialogue was cringe-worthily awful.  The acting was mostly limited by the horrible dialogue and goofy ninja-in-the-city scenario.

As expected, there is liberal bloodshed in this film, but my major complaint here is that you simply cannot see what is going on in the action scenes to fully appreciate the action.  This proves yet again why Hong Kong action films prevail in their action scenes.  Yes, darkness is part of the ninja’s arsenal, but that makes it hard to film.

The action choreography is heavily stylized and CGI enhanced.  The CGI is done well enough to capture the spirit of the bad-assness of ninja action, but even with all the CGI glamour, “Ninja Assassin” simply didn’t feel like it had enough action in it!  Most of this feeling is due to my above complaint of not being able to freakin’ see any of the actual action.

Hold on, there IS bad CGI in this film!  The biggest visual blemish came with the ninjas’ special power effects. Yes, these ninjas are like Lasombra in that they are shadows and dissolve into the darkness.  The implementation of said effect is a serious step back in technology- it looks like the ghosts from hell in the 1990 Patrick Swayze film, “Ghost”!  What was even worse is that the ninjas also whisper en masse just in case you couldn’t figure out their motivation.  They feel the need to whisper it loudly in exposition “Kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiilllll hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimmmmmmmm.” You’ve got to be kidding!

The last half hour or so of the movie saves its ass. The key to ninja stealth is their advantage of surprise and the cloak of darkness. Take away that advantage and they are vulnerable… to automatic gunfire!  The final action scenes of the movie is illuminated by the fires of the burning building so finally, I can see some action!

Ninja-Assassin fire

Rain does a decent job as Raizo. On a purely eye candy level, Rain looks good- he is tightly chiseled as a ninja physique should be. He is not over bulked, but lean and powerful. :mops up some drool: (I highly recommend the training with nails scene!) Should I be thankful that Raizo is a man of few words so that his accent doesn’t step on the scenes? The action scenes that stand out for me are those involving the chain whip and sickle on the end, but I fear that the chain whip is mostly CGI. Still, it looks impressive and impossibly flashy!

A worthy mention here is the opening scene where an Asian gangster, played by Sung Kang,  gets a message from the Black Sand clan.  Even though this scene literally made me cringe and think “if this movie starts off this badly, how will the rest be?”, he was great as a cocky gangster since he more well known for the pensive, quiet, zen-type (Fast and the Furious).  The leader of the clan is a stereotypical boss- nothing new to report or add.  Mika and her boss at Europol (shown below) are awkward and feel incredibly misplaced, but were necessary to move the plot along.

Ninja Assassin

The biggest disappointment for me was finding out that J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5) had a hand in writing the screenplay to this. Did he lose a bet somewhere and therefore had to include his name onto this?

From what Joel Silver had stated in interviews, the aim of this film was to introduce Rain as an action star to an American audience.  The film was built around that goal and I think they have achieved that end.

ninja-assassin fire2

Bottom line: This film is cheesy. “Ninja Assassin” is the EZ Cheese of action films this year.  Just turn off your brain and spray! “Ninja Assassin” is a solid rental.

That said, “Ninja Assassin” would make a good video game. It is easily built for game translation. Actually, it would have made more sense if it was a film adapted from a video game to begin with! Cuz in this “Ninja Assassin” world, the best way to lose a band of ninjas after you is to run through on-coming traffic. Extra points if you hit a ninja!

I give “Ninja Assassin” Two out of Five stars!


Lillian 'zenbitch' Standefer
Written by Lillian 'zenbitch' Standefer

is Senior Managing Editor for SciFi, skips along between the lines of sci-fi, fantasy, and reality, and is living proof that geek girls really DO exist!