Susan Granger’s review of “Ninja Assassin” (Warner Bros.)
Credit the Wachowski brothers (“The Matrix”) with truth in advertising as producers: this is an ultraviolent, chopsocky thriller about Japanese martial arts warriors.
South Korean pop star Rain plays Raizo, who was trained to fight from childhood. In a flashback, it’s revealed how he was abducted as an orphan by the 2,000 year-old Ozunu Clan and why he goes rogue after his girl-friend is ruthlessly murdered by the cruel, cold-blooded, secret society leader, Lord Ozunu (Sho Kosugi).
In contemporary Berlin, a lovely Europol agent, Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) discovers a financial connection between recent political assassinations and the Ozunu. That makes her a prime target for the villainous killers, led by Takeshi (Rick Yune). Predictably, it’s stealthy, shirtless Raizo to the rescue, since he’s just been lurking in the shadows in Europe, just waiting to exact his revenge.
Saddled with an ineptly written, cliché-riddled script by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski (creator of “Babylon 5”), director James McTeigue (“V for Vendetta”) concentrates on the visually impressive, acrobatic scenes. Indeed, his primary purpose seems to be to demonstrate the CG simulation of decapitation and slicing torsos in half by tossing five-pointed stars. In addition, of course, there’s a staggering variety of other technology-assisted forms of rain-soaked combat and weaponry, photographed by Karl Walter Lindlaub like dimly-lit comic book sequences and rapidly edited by Gian Ganziano and Joseph Jett Sally.
When they’re not slicing and dicing one another, the hapless actors are so hammy that their tedious dialogue often elicits laughter from the audience. While he may appeal to Asian audiences, taciturn Rain is no more impressive here than he was in the Wachowski’s “Speed Racer” (2008). And Naomie Harris’s face may be familiar from “28 Days Later,” “Miami Vice” and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” adventures.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Ninja Assassin” is an excessively gory, gruesome 3. Even though it’s a bloody bore, at least you get R-rated escapist action, and that’s what you’re paying for.