Unreal Movie Review: Ninja Assassin


Ninja Assassin certainly delivers what it promises, and that is a shit ton of ninjas assassinating each other. Unfortunately, what we get is nowhere really near a movie, as it is martial arts stage show interspersed with a CGI team who is desperately trying, and failing, to render blood effects convincingly.

There is some semblance of plot, held together with strings as thin as razor wire. Through some very effective Googling, an agent in Interpol discovers that ninja assassins exist, and have been hired to kill people for over a thousand years. Understandably, the ninjas are not too pleased with this discovery, so they plan on lopping her head off before she can hit the send button on her email.

Fortunately for her, she’s saved by a rogue ninja, expelled from his clan because he didn’t like that they stabbed his girlfriend at ninja camp when he was a teenager, so he cut his master’s face in half. Turns out ninjas frown upon stuff like that.

So the movie consists of Raizo, the super ninja, destroying legions of his old schoolmates while the girl he’s protecting imagines that she’s actually being useful by shooting a gun blindly into the darkness and screaming. This is mixed in with flashbacks of Raizo back at ninja camp where his master beats and stabs him until he becomes a good ninja.


Knife-on-a-chain! The latest in ninja tech!

And that’s it. There’s really nothing more to it than “kill all the ninjas,” which the movie most definitely does, but it’s like you’re watching your friend play Ninja Gaiden, which is fun for about twenty minutes until you get bored because he won’t let you play and you go on YouTube to watch cats try to climb up slides.

The best and worst part about Ninja Assassin is the action, as it’s among the most wicked I’ve ever seen onscreen, and some of it WOULD be on par with Ong Bak and Crouching Tiger, had it not been for the one thing that destroys it completely: the blood.

Now, I’m all for a good old fashioned gory time at the movies, but there is something about the CGI blood in this film that is so otherworldly, so bizarre, that it completely destroys the credibility of any of these fight scenes. The blood is the consistency of Nickelodeon slime and the color of a pitcher of Kool-Aid. I can’t tell if this was done purposefully to avoid an NC-17 rating (can movies even be rated NC-17 for violence these days?) or if it’s some sort of “artistic expression” or if the CGI team is just plain bad at their jobs. In any case, it takes what could have been truly awesome action scenes, and turns them into something you would find in an Xbox game.


I want that strawberry jelly inside your body!

It’s also painfully clear that this project was meant to be a “breakout” starring vehicle for Korean pop-star Rain, as the rest of Asia has been searching for its answer to Tony Jaa for quite some time now. But for all his gravity defying moves and the fact that his body appears to be made out of titanium hammered into the shape of a man, Rain simply has NO on screen charisma, and it appears those writing this film understood that, as they decided to give him approximately two dozen lines in the entire movie, most of which are so bad they’ll make your eyes water.

It’s too bad, because there are a lot of cool things happening in this film. The action is intense, and the stealthy ninja teleport effects are something cool I haven’t actually seen before. The weapons employed in the film, from the ninja swords to the throwy-spiky-things to the spiky-thing-on-a-chain (I’m clearly well versed in ninja terminology), are fantastically choreographed and amplify the already excellent action. It’s just too bad that what the weapons make shoot out of people’s bodies makes me want to go get a Hi-C drink rather than recoil in horror. It’s also too bad they build ninjas up to be incredibly smart and awesome, until they make them forget to heal scars on their face or allow them to be snuck up on in their isolated mountain lair by a fleet of government Hummers barreling down the road.

It’s just too bad that this movie couldn’t even craft a halfway decent narrative around it. But I could have looked past the complete lack of plot to focus solely on the action, if each scene wasn’t ruined by a fruitsplosion of blood accompanying it. Ninja Assassin missed its target, and this is one fad that I think is going the way of the pirate.

2 out of 5 stars


Don’t quit your day job.

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  1. Was the blood similar to that in Clive Barker’s Midnight Meat Train?

    I generally don’t like CGI blood (for the very reasons you list above) but I thought that it really fit with the style of Midnight Meat Train and made the movie almost fun to watch as a result. It was just so over the top that it surpassed pure cheese and was just fun.

    Curious if I would think it works with this movie.

  2. @IcemanD

    Yeah, it is a lot like that, except somehow even less realistic looking. But while that worked in Meat Train, I think that this movie could have benefited from Tarantino-style Kill Bill limb chopping. Though I’m told he had to make that scene black and white to avoid an NC-17 rating.

  3. I actually remember the CGI blood effects in the first Blade movie being the major thing that pulled me out of that movie. It can be kind of jarring. I’ll still go see this, and probably enjoy it simply for the ninjas, but I imagine the blood effects will annoy me, too.

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