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Rotary Action - helicopter movies
cast: Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles, Rick Yune, and Shô Kosugi
director: James McTeigue
95 minutes (18) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Warner DVD Region 2
review by Christopher Geary
Produced by the Wachowski brothers, Ninja Assassin is an ultra-violent bloodbath concerning the highly secretive and thoroughly archaic
'nine clans' a martial arts cult which trains expert killers from orphans. It's about the arduous life and fugitive times of classic antihero
Raizo (played as an adult by the young Korean actor named 'Rain', Speed Racer,
I'm A Cyborg...), in a film that performs double-duty of CGI-enhanced
action thriller boasting many electrifying combat scenes, and a moderately successful comicbook superhero tragedy. No surprise then, to see that
it's competently directed by James McTeigue - maker of the equally bombastic yet nonetheless effective V For Vendetta.
After the gruesomely violent opening sequence in a tattoo parlour, the main plot gets underway as Europol agent Maslow (British TV actor Ben
Miles), introduces forensic investigator - "a librarian" she calls herself - Mika (Naomie Harris, who played Dalma in
Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels), to puzzling conspiracy
theory of modern ninjas - possibly supported and employed by a cabal of world powers - becoming active, in Berlin, on the trail of freedom-seeking
Raizo, who's considered a traitor by nine clans 'family' chief, Ozunu (Shô Kosugi, Ninja III: The Domination), who repeatedly sends ninja
ace Takeshi (Rick Yune, hero of The Fifth Commandment; also Bond's
foe 'Zao' in Die Another Day), to execute 'lost son' Raizo. With darkly
amusing subtexts about psychotic family expectation and pressures, Ninja Assassin pits instinctive good (with hearts being in the right
or wrong place roundly symbolic throughout) against vicious evil - on a seemingly mercenary level that's far beyond any possibility of redemption.
With most of the performances rising to just 'TV movie' standard, it's the many bouts of dazzling and hardcore kung fu that carries the film.
Throwing stars zip thorough a fighter's personal space, and Raizo's favoured sickle-blade-on-a-chain mêlée weapon is wielded with impressive
lethality here using all the physics-defying skill that digital effects animators could possibly achieve, granted carte blanche for creating
such pure delirious of comicbook mayhem. Blood-splatter mutilations and the dismemberment of multiple enemies - as depicted in numerous fighting
sequences here - is sufficiently well developed and sharply edited together so that it's quite often impossible to figure out what is cutting-edge
virtual imagery and what might be prosthetics work.
Predictably, the action involves Raizo saving Mika from ninjas, Raizo being captured by the formidable baddies and tortured by Ozunu, before
the climax where Mika and Maslow lead a tactical assault on the clan's hideout. Closing scenes follow the rescue, showdown, and new beginning,
final chaptering of standard action cinema but Ninja Assassin remains entertaining despite its adherence to such formulaic traits.