Perhaps growing up as a boy in a decade dominated by action stars such as Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Wesley Snipes is the reason for my love of action movies. Perhaps it’s seeing Independence Day on the big screen or watching “Last Action Hero” till the VHS tape wore down. Either way my love of action films seems to have outlasted the careers of most of the stars, and this week I’ve found myself rekindling that love by watching a variety of action films known and lesser known. While many of the newer films seem to lack the ‘cool factor’ I felt as a youthful viewer, after picking up Rain’s first Hollywood film Ninja Assassin this weekend I feel I have found a movie worthy of joining the ranks of my entertaining action films.
Through a series of cut scenes the audience is introduced to both an enigmatic fighter, Raizo who Rain portrays, and a seemingly ordinary research clerk named Mika Coretti working for Europol (European Police Office). Mika presents her boss with information that may link to a thousand year old clan of ninjas potentially behind recent killings including the assassination of a Russian leader. While her boss doesn’t take her seriously at first he gives her some time to present her information. In the meantime, Raizo is presented as a child in a training school growing up learning the way of the ninja. Unlike the often romanticized version of ninjas, the ninja Raizo is trained as ruthless as can be, and his master will do anything, including kill those who are weak or stray from the path, to turn his students into the ultimate killing machines. Returning to the present, Raizo encounters a ninja in a Laundromat, and while much of the fight is unseen the result is clear as Raizo’s opponent is left in pieces in the wash. In the meantime Mika and her boss, after some further digging, begin encountering fierce pressure from not just her superiors but many agencies. Mika goes to her apartment to avoid the pressure and, upon her arrival two ninjas appear suddenly, one trying to kill her, and the other seemingly trying to protect her. In this moment Raizo and Mika’s lives collide, and together they must survive an onslaught of ninjas that would make Shredder jealous.
Action films tend to have very few main characters and Ninja Assassin is no different. Therefore I’ll simply focus on my favorite character Raizo who, as the main character, is easily given the most character development. Raizo speaks more with his fists than his mouth, and in this way portrays a hardened warrior trained for battle and trained to kill. However, as we get to know Raizo more, as an adult and a child, we see he’s suffered a great conflict of faith and of love lost. In the present time, Raizo appears to still be coming to terms with who he truly is, and he’s doing this the only way he knows how, through fighting.
One can always count on action films to be full of excitement, fighting, and violence. Thanks to the addition of martial arts, Ninja Assassin takes the action to another level, with awesome sword fights, over-the-top blood bathes, and fights to the death involving hand to hand combat. Knowing that the Wachowski brothers produced Ninja Assassin, I was ready for some amount of enhanced slow-mo fighting sequences. However, since ninjas work primarily in the dark, I was disappointed that a few of the enhanced camera efforts were lost in the darkness. On the whole though, the fighting sequences were spectacular, and thanks to the choreography, and I’m sure thanks to Rain’s own abilities, Ninja Assassin’s fights remain quite memorable.
Ninja Assassin earns a spot on my shelf not because of any delusion that the film is Oscar material. On the contrary, Ninja Assassin won its one award, MTV’s award for Rain as “Biggest Badass”, for what it did best, entertain the viewer with non-stop ninja action. Certainly one could ask for more from a film, but with the name Ninja Assassin I feel I got what I came for. If you love martial arts films, action heroes, over-the-top blood and guts, or even just Rain, then you should check out Ninja Assassins.
Score: 4 out of 5