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Warner / 99 Minutes / 2009 / Rated R / Street Date: March 16, 2010
If you want blood, you got it: Joel Silver's latest smash-em-up action gore fest will leave those who squeam at the sight of the red stuff in shock-induced comas. For in Ninja Assassin, there are fights, and there are wounds, and where there are wounds, there is blood, and this cycle repeats itself pretty much nonstop for the film's hour-and-a-half, stopping only for the occasional plot point or show-off slo-mo sequence.
One wonders what Bruce Lee would think of a martial arts film like this - on one hand, it seems so very contrived, with newfangled special effects and showy, expensive set pieces taking precedent over good old-fashioned karate fights, but there's a certain liberation to post-Matrix flicks like Ninja Assassin. They may be exhausting and somewhat thin in their overall syntax, but there's something unique about the fact that the film's very camera seems to flit and spiral in the air alongside Ninja Assassin's warriors in action: It's not a mere document of big fights, it's a veritable participant.
It's a simple movie, to be sure - a young warrior named Raizo (Korean singer Rain) seeks revenge after his former lover's (surprise surprise) bloody death - and as cinematic fast-food, it does its job well. Viewers who are looking to exploding body parts and decapitations to go along with their movie-theater popcorn will barely have time to take a pee break during Ninja Assassin: One could fill a generously-sized silo with all the amputations the film provides. And Rain makes a noble protagonist - he's not exactly multi-faceted, but it goes without saying that you want to see the guy gore-up the meanie ninja clan that wronged him.
But Ninja Assassin's saccharine chop-chop is fleeting, inconsequential, and cursory. It has all the bells and whistles of a reverberant actioner, but the tens of millions of dollars that obviously went into the picture seem unmotivated and, quite frankly, redundant. For this writer who needs just a good plot setup, some capable martial arts combatants and maybe a nice backdrop or two when it comes to these kinds of movies, Ninja Assassin comes off as being pointlessly over the top. But boy, does it have a helluva body count.