Around Thanksgiving of last year, I started to see trailers of a particular movie that quite literally made me laugh out loud. The reason behind it is because I knew with the title of the movie and the obvious plot, there was no way I was not going to review it when it came to dvd & blu-ray. I have a reputation for certain movies, I guess you could say. That movie was Ninja Assassin. Several months later, I am reviewing it for a mass audience. Funny how that works.
An old man and master of tattoos (played by Randall Duk Kim) is filling in an elaborate tattoo on a young gangster named Hollywood (played by Sung Kang)’s back. A henchman brings Hollywood a sealed envelope. The envelope is opened and out spills black sand. The old man is startled. He starts to spin a tale about ninjas and how he saw an envelope just like that before everybody around him was assassinated.
The only reason he survived is because his heart is not located in the same place as everybody else’s is. (or the ninja was a lousy shot) The young Yakuza members laugh it off and tell him he’s just a silly old man. All of the sudden, it goes dark and then a ninja appears who slices and dices his way to a ton of bloody dead bodies. The last image we see is the old man screaming as the ninja closes in for his final kill. TITLE SCREEN. Hrmmm, I wonder what type of movie this is. Perhaps it involves ninjas and assassins.
Present day, we see our main character, Raizo (played by Rain) at a local washateria. Here he is asked to fold sheets with a lovely female. He suspects correctly though that the female is actually a Ninja!…Assassin! They spar, they fight, they share helpful clothing tips like not mixing darks with whites. In the end, the lady’s head & assorted body parts end up in the dryer. That blood really isn’t going to come out, is it?
Meanwhile, we learn of a young lady named Mika Coretti (played by Naomie Harris) who works for Europol. She’s stumbled onto a secret about various ninja clans who take orphan children and train them to be….wait for it, wait for it…runway models. Because ninja clans know about fashion. Just kidding, they train them to be assassins. She shares this with her fellow agent Ryan Maslow (played by Ben Miles) who mostly ignores her and wonders if anybody remembers him from Speed Racer.
We get a series of flashbacks involving Raizo who grew up in one of these camps. The clan is ran by a man named Ozunu (played by Sho Kosugi). He teaches the young orphans respect, honor and how to look really good in the color black. Actually, it just seems more like an excuse to inflict punishment and torture every other scene on some unsuspecting student.
In one such scene, the young Raizo’s feet are hurt very badly and he must sleep with bloody feet…on white sheets. See, this is why he went ballistic when that lady asked him to fold sheets. He remembers the blood! Anyhow, a young ninja woman, Kiriko (played by Kylie Goldstein & later, Anna Sawai) puts some gook (which looks like hummus) on his feet and by morning his feet seem to be good as new. Well, except for about twenty scars.
Through time, Kiriko and Raizo develop a strong but silent bond with each other. However, Kiriko is not long for this ninja life. She wants to see what is on the other side of the wall. She tries to escape, but ultimately she is recaptured and put to death by order of Ozunu while Raizo looks on. Raizo eventually grows up and becomes a full fledged….ASSASSIN for the clan. However, deep resentment and dislike of wearing hoods eventually free him from the clan.
We are back to the present day where Raizo hunts the clan and the clan hunts him. Mika uncovers more and more information and finds a picture of Raizo which she assumes is one of the assassins, not knowing he is more interested in being a Korean pop star. Well the actor is anyway. Mika starts to realize she has uncovered something huge which puts her in harm’s way. What will become of Raizo and Mika? Will they meet? Will they fight NINJA ASSASSINS? Will they exchange cleaning tips on how to get blood out? Let’s find out.
As you can tell, this is a movie where Raizo does some really awesome things involving weapons and convoluted plot lines. There isn’t much plot, it’s just balls to the wall action for ninety nine minutes. Raizo is flat out amazing, we know probably a lot of this is creative camera and wire work but do we really care? Naomie Harris also does a nice job with actual acting, but she seems so out of place here and better suited for some normal police drama work.
But as you can tell, the plot holes in this movie are about a mile wide. These ninjas aren’t very honorable either. We take orphans, we force them to fight and kill for us and if they ever try to leave, we kill them. Yeah…okay. Also, note to the writers, ninjas would not chase you on a freeway. They would chase you down in laundromats. However, you have to hand it to the Wachowski brothers, they certainly know their action.
The video is shown in 2.40:1 Widescreen @ 1080p. Technically, this disc sure shines. Video has some wonderful colors and you’ll simply stand there in awe as you expect the men and women in black to come busting out the other side. The only issues were with some of the later shadow effects and a little bit loss of detail in the dark scenes. But, I’ll gladly ignore that since isn’t that the point of ninjas to not always be seen?
The audio is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD MA English. There are also Spanish and French 5.1 mixes. The action is loud and many neighbors (especially those living in apartments and can’t fold sheets correctly) may actually complain. The surrounds are used greatly and you’ll wonder if a NINJA ASSASSIN is maybe in your home. The only problem I had was with some of the dialog. Perhaps my ears were still bleeding from the furious action, but some of it sounded hollow. Mostly good however. Subtitles are provided in English SDH, Spanish & French.
- Automatic Trailers: Blu-Ray & Digital Copy
- The Myth and Legend of Ninjas 18:56: The first featurette goes into the legend of mythos of actual ninjutsu through the use of interviews featuring actual masters of the art. They feature grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi and Stephen Hayes who speak about their craft and how it differs from the entertainment perception. Best quote: “One piece of cookie can be a weapon.” from Masaaki Hatsumi. Indeed, especially if it is stale shortbread, those suckers have some really hard edges.
- The Extreme Sport of a Ninja 10:07: This is the behind the scenes of how they performed all of the acrobatics and gymnastics from the film. Some really amazing moves, again I’d like to know exactly how many injuries happened on set, because some of this action is phenomenal.
- Training Rain 9:52: This is dedicated to show much Rain trained and worked for 6 solid months at 4-6 hours a day. Like they mention in the featurette, we could be looking at the next Bruce Lee if he actually kept working with these type of movies. For fans of Rain, these ten minutes will probably seem like a porno film as they show off his abs for most of that time.
- Exclusive Look at the new Clash of the Titans 5:07: Short promo bit about the Clash of the Titans movie which is set to hit theaters on April 2, 2010.
- Deleted Scenes 7:43: There are five deleted scenes contained here, most of them centering around Naomie Harris and her interaction with Ben Miles or Rain. This mostly serves as filler but would have helped flesh out Naomie’s character.
- BD Live & Digital Copy also provided
This is a true popcorn flick. If you bring your mind through the door of this cinema, it will leave in pieces thanks to some fantastic ninja moves. Rain impresses even if the story is a giant piece of swiss cheese. The guy certainly has a future in the business if he can drag himself away from Korean pop stardom. The disc is excellent with great video and wonderful audio along with a few interesting extras. I certainly recommend this to people who love their popcorn flicks & filmtastic martial arts but those who are looking for an accurate representation of the ninja might want to go find a true ninjutsu master.