Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Movie Review: Ninja Assassin

Welcome to the movie review of Ninja Assassin, also known as "A 90 Minute Study of Rain's Abs".

Let me make something clear first; this is not a deep story movie, and those who expected it to be are in for a well-deserved disappointment. However with decent acting and beautiful filming, it flies safely over the dark abyss of porn-quality. Some official or other starts digging into the truth behind a rumor of a secret ninja organization. So we leave the story, because it's standard, and neither contributes greatly or ruins anything.

We have established that it's an action movie. It's also, obviously, a martial arts ninja movie. Let me make another thing clear: this is not a realistic movie. Those who expect that past the first five minutes are also in for a well-deserved disappointment. Ninjas move in darkness like in that horror movie called, oh right, Darkness, and obey the ninja trope of "the more ninjas in one place, the worse they get".

However, taking the movie at face value, I enjoyed the action a lot! Almost all of it is blade-based, very little fists or firearms, and they've done the most of it, with dark moody settings where the glimmering blades and the exaggeratedly red blood are the only focal points. Think Sin City and replace American noir with ninja manga dismemberment á la Blade of the Immortal. I think the stylistic yet semi-realistic violence balances between beauty and grotesqueness in a fascinating way, and I love the blade-on-a-chain weapon and the visual effects it produces.

The Rain (aka Jung Ji-Hoon) whose abs we study is a Korean actor/singer and the reason I saw this movie in the first place. While I openly admit bias, I think he really is a good actor, a better actor than singer, and he's gotten a few awards and remarks from high places. Obviously his acting is hardly put to the test here, but I think what keeps the story together and on level is the performance from him and the big boss, Shô Kosugi.

In summary: I greatly enjoyed watching this movie, and I think all the bad reviews are a little unfair. It's not trying to get the Nobel prize in philosophy, neither is it trying to accurately depict ninjas. I like it a great lot better than many other brainless action movies that have gotten a much more favorable reception. While watching it in complete darkness certainly helped, the way they played with shadows was exciting, and the style of the action as well as the acting quality were very positive surprises considering what I'd heard about it. Together with the added bonus of "A 90 Minute Study of Rain's Abs" (and trust me, heterosexual men, they are a bonus for you as well), it is hovering in the top50-borderlands of Totally Enjoyable Friday Night Movie.

PS. Also don't whine at that all the ninjas speak English. It falls under the "take at face value", together with "how the hell did they get armored vehicles from Europe into the Japanese mountains".


Nallenon said...

The only thing that really bothered me about this movie was the decision to give the main character a signature weapon (the aforementioned dagger-on-a-chain) and then give the single coolest stunt with said weapon, the one shown in the trailers and the one with the most slow-motion to it, to a random mook who happens to hold the exact same kind of weapon.
That's just bad form.

Yeonni said...

Was it really his signature weapon though? He and other random ninjas use it all the time, I thought. For a significant part of the movie, it's the weapon he lugs around, granted, but that seems to be more by accident because it's the one he brings when shit hits the fan, or possibly because he likes it better when fighting hoards of people rather than one opponent.

Nallenon said...

My point stands, if the main character uses a weapon throughout, in a movie like this, give him the coolest stunt.

Yeonni said...

I disagree :P