Ninja Assassin Reviews (Part2)

[63 points] Salon.com Stephanie - Zacharek

 "Ninja Assassin": Sneaky but not subtle
Decapitations! Slashed eyeballs! But the finest effect in this visceral gouge of a picture is Korean pop star Rain

「ニンジャ・アサシン」- 卑怯だが繊細でない

In James McTeigue's "Ninja Assassin," the ninjas, like Carl Sandburg's fog, come on little cat feet. But if their movements are soundless, they sure make a splash, visually speaking: As these creatures of darkness go about their business, creeping about in their little black socks and hoods, the torsos of their opponents are sliced in two on the diagonal with clean precision; the occasional cheek and -- good God! -- even an eyeball gets slashed with one of those ever-popular all-in-one ninja tools; and one poor sod is decapitated right through the jawline -- you could say his mouth is left hanging open in amazement.


"Ninja Assassin" reaches such a high level of ridiculousness in its opening sequence -- thanks to the magic of computer graphics, the ninjas are so swift and so well camouflaged that we can't even see them -- that the thing can only make more sense as it goes along. And to an extent, it does. McTeigue made his directorial debut with the oversimplified, disappointing Alan Moore adaptation "V for Vendetta," which was written by Larry and Andy Wachowski. (He's frequently worked as a second-unit director for the filmmaking duo, who are credited as producers here.) "Ninja Assassin" is far less ambitious than "V for Vendetta," but it's also more effective -- if you can use that word to describe a movie that's mindlessly enjoyable and almost instantly forgettable. "Ninja Assassin" lives in the moment, a visceral gouge of a picture, and sections of it move so fast -- and are so intriguingly, dimly lit -- that you have to use your imagination a bit to discern what's happening.


The plot makes sense, broadly speaking, although it hardly matters: Naomie Harris is Mika, a bright young Europol researcher based in Berlin whose digging has brought her a little too close to a secret network of trained killers from the Far East, the Ozunu Clan, run by an Asian Robert Forster look-alike (played by martial-arts master Sho Kusugi). Ozunu's outfit steals little kids and trains them to be supremely effective (and expensive) ninja killers, ready to silently vanquish heads of state, troublesome gangsters and anyone else you might like to see offed, for a price. He's a cruel master, and he's none too happy when his star pupil, Raizo -- played in his grown-up incarnation by the Korean pop star Rain -- rejects the clan's ruthlessness and breaks away. As Raizo waits to take his revenge on the clan, he steps in to protect Mika, who's targeted by the organization's most ruthless ninja, and Raizo's nemesis, Takeshi (Rick Yune).


All of that meshugas is just an excuse for a succession of cartoonishly violent action sequences: McTeigue and his cinematographer, Karl Walter Lindenlaub, present much of the action in appropriately low lighting -- these are fighters who emerge from the shadows, after all, and the filmmakers know that things half-glimpsed are more intriguing than in-your-face visuals. That's not to say McTeigue's approach is particularly subtle: There's blood, viscous and orangey-red, spurting, bubbling and seeping everywhere. And I left the movie feeling that most of the effects weren't quite as elegant as they could have been: In one sequence, when a group of shadowy, inky killers descend upon one of their targets, they emerge from the corners of the frame, as if tiptoeing -- or gliding -- on velvet slippers. I wanted more of that, and maybe a little less go-for-broke slashing, although the cathartic value of all that shameless bloodletting shouldn't be underestimated.


And then there's the Beautiful People factor. McTeigue and his writers (Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski, working from a story by Sand) are savvy enough to give us a degree of sexual frisson between the movie's two leads. This isn't the greatest role for Harris.
(She was fun to watch in the last two "Pirates of the Caribbean" pictures, and she gave a solid performance in "28 Days Later." But she's extraordinary in the 2002 British television adaptation of Zadie Smith's "White Teeth," and she needs a movie role as good as that one.) But she's able to give her character a sufficient degree of low-key common sense, which makes her a good foil for Rain's smoldering, tortured Raizo. Rain wasn't elected to People magazine's "Most Beautiful People" in 2007 for nothing: His features are shyly expressive, and though he may not be Brando, he's not trying to be -- instead of overreaching, he plays it cool, and his stealth strategy works.  In one scene, Raizo practices his ninja skills alone in his spare, dark Berlin apartment, executing handstands on a bed of spikes and so forth -- the only way to start the day, really. In preparation for the movie, Rain trained heavily for the better part of a year, reportedly eating only chicken breast and vegetables. Still, he carries himself casually and unself-consciously, as if it were commonplace for Asian pop stars to drop into the neighborhood, via Mount Olympus, from time to time. He's the movie's nonobvious superstar, its darkly glimmering shuriken.


This may be one of the most friendly review for Rain.

[50 points] The New York Times - Jeannette Catsoulis

The best thing about “Ninja Assassin” is its refreshingly honest title: unlike those few, unwary souls who rush to “Precious” solely on the strength of its twee title and happy-go-lucky television trailers, no one who sees “Ninja Assassin” can reasonably complain about the violence.


Which is just as well, because this saga, set in Berlin, is more committed to its bloodletting than to any of its characters. The plot, when glimpsed between flying body parts, concerns Raizo (the South Korean former boy-band member Rain), a rogue ninja with a grudge against the clan that abducted him as a child and killed his ninja honey.


That makes him very useful to Mika (Naomie Harris), an Interpol-style cop who suspects world governments of hiring ninjas to do their dirtiest deeds. If only Raizo would keep his shirt on, then maybe she could concentrate enough to prove it.


Perhaps in homage to his rippling star (whose martial arts prowess I’m not qualified to judge but whose hotness, whether throwing knives or folding laundry, is self-evident), the director, James McTeigue, rarely misses an opportunity to drench the film in water.


Flashbacks to ninja training school ? first love, first wounds, first downpour ? are quite lovely, making us wish that the film had remained in the past and avoided the present-day blurs of shadowy, red-and-black action.


Ninjas may be slippery when wet, but if we learned anything from Indiana Jones, it’s that bullets trump sharp objects every time.


“Ninja Assassin” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Bodies are halved, beheaded, dismembered and consigned to an eternal “spin” cycle.


[50 points]The Globe and Mail (Toronto) - Stephen Cole

Ninja Assassin is no Matrix


The Matrix was famous for introducing the bullet cam. Time slowed. Characters moved as if struggling under water. Then the slowly rotating bullets came, chasing down intended receivers. The special effect became so popular that before long, all action movies were equipped with National Football League-style slow-motion playlets.


The big deal in Ninja Assassin is deadly, swooshing five-point stars. They travel much faster than Matrix bullets, and when these sheriff-badge thingies connect, look out! Grown men are reassembled into haphazard columns of hamburger meat.


Assassin blades are the ultimate silent weapon. So you might figure a ninja gang knocking off a pair of victims shouldn't take more than five minutes.


You'd be wrong. That's because one victim, Raizo (Korean pop star Rain), is so nimble that he doesn't need an umbrella in a thunderstorm.


Raizo gained his skills the hard way. As a child, he was kidnapped by a secret society of ninja assassins ? the Ozunu clan. Eventually, he ran away, swearing revenge against the depraved Lord Ozunu who had his sweetheart killed. Years later, in Berlin, he gets his chance, befriending a gorgeous Interpol agent, Mika (Naomie Harris).


Mika has discovered that Ozunu ninjas are behind a wave of political assassinations. Now, they're coming for her. Will Raizo lose another woman to the Ozunu clan?


Ninja Assassin is a convincing, reasonably co-ordinated action movie. Nothing special, but lovers of the genre will enjoy the workouts, especially if they bring night-vision glasses. On the plus side, Harris is an intriguing damsel in distress. And our action hero moves well, although he's more Mist than Rain when delivering dialogue.


Still, the question arises: Why is the film getting the VIP treatment, opening on the eve of the American Thanksgiving weekend? The answer lies in Ninja Assassin 's credits. The film is produced by Andy and Larry Wachowski, creators of the Matrix trilogy (1999-2003), a $1.6-billion (U.S.) global franchise.


Warner Bros. is hoping that a devoted fan base will want to know what the oppressive Lord Ozunu (Sho Kosugi) has to do with the calculating schemers who, 10 years ago now, attempted to domesticate the world with a virtual-reality matrix. All of the Wachowski films, even Bound and V for Vendetta , are concerned with oppression and rebellion. Is Ninja Assassin an elaboration on the brothers' most pressing theme?


The answer is yes, of course, and not really. On one hand, the film, which is directed by James McTeigue, who also did V for Vendetta , is all about the battered victims rising up against their oppressors.


And for those who have been following Larry Wachowski's stormy voyage (Rolling Stone magazine has reported that he has taken up with L.A.'s most infamous dominatrix), the film offers grist for the tabloid mill. Ninja Assassin takes an unhealthy interest in the swooning of battered victims, especially in the ninja training camp, where little kids are twisted and torn for their own good.


“Cut him, failure must be sewn in blood,” is one of Lord Ozunu's frequently hissed commands.


On the other hand, Ninja Assassin lacks the finesse and epic scope of The Matrix , an action film with an overheated brain ? a scavenger hunt for religious and cultural references, from the Bible to spaghetti westerns, that made the eventual trilogy the sci-fi series of choice for Generation Special F/X.

他方、「ニンジャアサシン」は、聖書からマカロニウェスタンまで宗教的で文化的な引用を漁りまくりGeneration Special F/Xの選ぶSF三部作シリーズとなった、脳がオーバーヒートするアクション映画「マトリックス」の精妙さと叙事的視点を欠いている。

This one is simply a diverting, uncommonly violent action flick. No need for an extended critical postmortem. Except to say the Wachowski brothers' trademark seems to have turned into a designer brand dedicated to producing inexpensive knockoffs.


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