Before you say anything, yes I am aware that I owe you several other movie reviews. Secondly, yes, I did go and see Ninja Assassin. I paid my matinee price and sat my behind in the comfy leather seat with the big cup holders and watched people get sliced up and diced down for over an hour. And I liked it. So there! Ahem…back to professional reviewer mode.
There are some movies that are so full of meaning they leave you pondering your place in the world, the meaning of life, the nature of humanity, and wondering why God doesn’t wipe us all off the planet and start over. There are other movies that have no purpose other than to wow you with special effect of gross things like brain matter and body parts, which seek only to show you something you’ve never seen before or present something in a way you’ve never seen/experienced before. There are some movies that make no sense and are not good movies. This is not any of those movies.
When Mr. Perfect first suggested that we watch Ninja Assassin, in my head there was the following inner dialogue: “Why the crap don’t they have Princess and the Frog?” “You know Mr. Perfect wasn’t going to see that anyway.” “Well the fact remains.” “What about Did You Hear About the Morgans? That seemed cute on the commercials.” “Yes, I do love my rom-coms! But Mr. P ain’t feelin’ that either.” “I ain’t paying to see no Ninja cuttin’ folks up!” (I was being a good gf and paying for the movie this time) However, I decided to forgo my misgivings, because at the very least I would be entertained by flying body parts (and I am morbidly a fan of that–Final Destination, anyone?) and Chinese lure.
Ninja Assassin has a pretty good plot for its genre. I was expecting just something to set up wall to wall death, but there were explanations of motivations, tender moments, circularity and a satisfying ending. The movie alternates between the present and flashbacks to the protagonist’s youth as a “recruit” of the Black Sand Clan ( or something similar sounding), one of the nine clans of ninjas. They are basically mercenaries for hire. The catch? They take in orphans and other unwanted children and train them to be ninjas. They make a family environment for them, yes, but completely centered on pleasing their “father” by growing to be emotionless, heartless killing machines.
There’s a forensic researcher who’s investigating the existence of ninjas and stumbles unto a link between assassinations and the ninja clains, but this real world/present day arc of the story is less satisfying. It’s just a way to get her and her colleagues involved in the plot. The protagonist’s story, his motivations, conflicts, and actions are what drive the plot, as well as all the cool sword play and knife-on-a-chain action (seriously, the knife is on a chain and people get sliced up…it’s like a sinister soap on a rope). The code of the ninjas is simple and untrespassable (is that really a word? I don’t know…); there are consequences for disobedience. They are a society unto themselves, run by totalitarian law and completely disconnected from the modern world around them. They operate in the shadows (very literally).
As far as gross/cool graphics and special effects, in the beginning a guy gets half of his head cut off, and you see his tongue and lower jaw from an aerial shot that horrifies at the same time as it dazzles. There are others, but I am not giving anything away.
I was unsatisfied with this one plot bullet that’s at both the beginning and the end, but I guess it’s possible and, as Mr. Perfect pointed out, the movie is one big infectious disease (there is blood and open wounds everywhere!), but there is no gratuitous sex or bad language (I guess they figure the violence was enough). I am also happy to report no shadow ninjas came to cut off any of my body parts, either in real life or in my dreams afterwards.
I would give this movie a solid B for entertainment value, a coherent storyline, special effects achievements, a sexy Asian man (they get so few of those on the big screen!), a satisfying conclusion, and an overall delightful visual spectacle.