“He doesn’t look like a killing machine. He looks like he should be in a boy band.”
Ninja Assassin is what all the Ninja movies of the 70s and 80s wished they could have been when they grew up.
The subject matter lends itself to a treatment which should somehow capture the mystery of magical powers such as invisibility combined with the ruthlessness of a culture of assassination, but most of the Ninja movies made in the West were usually low budget cheesy films full of people running around in broad daylight dressed all in black or even white (totally defeating the camouflage idea!).
While there have been impressive Japanese productions which displayed the potential for the subject (Shogun Assassin for example), the Ninja movies made in the States usually sucked.
Ninja Assassin was finally the Ninja movie we were all waiting for — it deserves attention from a wider fan base as it is a fun, violent, and beautifully made little action flick.
James McTeigue, who cut his teeth as the first assistant director for the Wachowskis on all the Matrix movies, and who stepped into his own on the pretty good V for Vendetta and the not so good (I hear) The Raven, really made his best movie so far with this under appreciated martial arts bloodbath.
Written by unknown Matthew Sand (story and screenplay) and substantially punched up by J. Michael Straczynski (Thor, Babylon 5, World War Z), Ninja Assassin is a great Saturday afternoon matinee movie, delivering a tragic love story, a substantial revenge motif, and solid toxic-family father and son confrontation.
Plus, of course, many hyper-violent fight scenes, and a decent amount of wit.
Rain, a Korean pop star, put in the hours in the gym to develop a Bruce Lee body and a creditable imitation of martial mastery, delivers star power and a certain dry wit.
Shô Kosugi also stars, who achieved some fame in various ultra-low-budget Golan Globus exploitation films in the 80s (which us older people remember as being in rotation on the early HBO) such as Ninja III: The Domination (in which he plays a dead Ninja who possesses a hot 80s aerobics instructor to become a Ninja with big hair and leg warmers).
The CGI effects really help here, to enable the actors to interact with flying knives, blades, and one particularly nasty mini-scythe on a chain that is the favorite weapon of the protagonist, as well as enabling the Ninjas to melt into and out of the shadows.