Ninja Assassin (2009)

Rating: **
Review Date: 5/27/18
Produced By: Joel Silver, Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Director: James McTeigue
Stunt Coordinators: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch
Cast: Rain, Naomie Harris, Sho Kosugi

A gratuitously bloody throwback to the ninja movies of the 70's and 80's, featuring the legendary Sho Kosugi as an old ninja master. A young orphan named Raizo (Rain) is raised by Kosugi and brutally trained in the art of ninjitsu. He excels in his training, but has a soft spot in his heart for a girl named Kiriko. When she betrays the clan and tries to escape, Raizo's heart breaks, which leads to his own inevitable betrayal. Meanwhile, an ambitious forensic researcher named Mika (Naomie Harris) digs up evidence of ninja assassinations that Europol is very interested in keeping buried, which makes her a target. Lucky for her, Raizo shows up and saves her in the nick of time, and the two of them are on the run for the rest of the film. The only way to freedom is for Raizo to wipe out his entire clan and kill his former master.

It's an ultra-violent orgy of blood and body parts, but it lacks the campy and melodramatic tone of the old classics. Instead, it's just outrageous and gross, while the overuse of digital blood and CGI weapons makes it look tacky. Rain has a remarkable physique and is a great athlete, and while his fighting style is very flashy, it doesn't look particularly convincing or effective. He's also a terrible actor, which doesn't help his cause. Sho Kosugi does little more than spout philosophy and ninja nonsense, but he does it with authority and it's a nostalgic treat to see him again. Naomie Harris is gorgeous and very sexy, but quickly falls into the damsel-in-distress role whenever Raizo is around. It looks flashy and well-made, but overall it's an awful film whose over-the-top sensibilities and extended flashbacks end up working against it. So unless you have a fetish for blood, gore, and edged weapons, it's best to steer clear of this one.