Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles, Rick Yune, Sho Kosugi, Guido Foehrweisser, Stephen Marcus, Wladimir Tarasjanz, Randall Duk Kim, Sung Kang
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski, Matthew Sand, based on a story by Matthew Sand
Directed by: James McTeigue
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody stylized violence throughout, and language
Running Time: 99
Date: 09/29/2009
IMDB

Ninja Assassin (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Shadow Prey

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

As directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) and produced by the Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix), Ninja Assassin is of a generally higher quality than the typical "ninja" martial arts movie. It's slick and fast-paced with some gorgeous set pieces and choreography, as well as characters who more or less behave like they know what they're doing.

For centuries, the so-called "nine clans" have taken orphaned children and trained them to be ninjas, with the power to hide in the shadows and follow their targets by scent alone. The ninjas are then sold to world governments to be used as assassins. Raizo (South Korean pop star Rain) escapes and decides to bring down the entire organization, especially his cruel, former sensei Lord Ozunu (Sho Kosugi). Meanwhile, Europol agent Ryan Maslow (Ben Miles) and researcher Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) stumble upon the conspiracy and find themselves in the middle of a war between Raizo and an army of angry, evil ninjas. Lots of blood and flying body parts follow.

Rain gives a fairly one-note, brooding performance, but Miles and Harris help make up for it. The movie is extremely and self-consciously violent and gory, although in a comic book/fantasy way that will probably inspire more laughter than cringing. Moreover, most of the bloody hackings and severings are accomplished via CGI, and none of it actually looks or feels too real. The larger plot arc has a few holes and leaves a bit to be desired, but individual moments can be ridiculously exhilarating.

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