Monday 25 January 2010

Review: Ninja Assassin

Year: 2009 (U.K release 2010)
Director: James McTeigue
Screenplay: Matthew Sand, J. Michael Straczynski
Starring: Rain, Naomi Harris, Ben Miles

Plot synopsis is here (but seriously there's no point reading it)

A quick look at Wikipedia or the IMDB's trivia and you will find that J Michael Straczynski had rewritten Matthew Sand's script of Ninja Assassin in 53 hours. It was approved by Warner Brothers with no notes and the script went out to the actors within the same week. If said story is true then yes, that's pretty impressive. What I find even more impressive is that Warner Brothers were fine with passing this with NO PLOT WHAT SO EVER.

This isn't like Avatar where the plot doesn't feel fresh. No, this film, seriously has no plotting. There's flashbacks and there's a supposed Europol investigation over Ninja's (?) but don't you dare try and follow it as there is no point. About half an hour into the film I still had no idea why people were doing what they were doing. It's not as if the story is a jumbled mess, it's just non-existent.

It's fortunate that the people involved with this supposed screenplay is The Wachowski's (producers) and their friend James McTeigue (director) who novel idea with the product is to fill it with action with a side order of blood (I said novel, not original). The film is becomes strangely passable because despite it's pathetic script, the film is fueled with watchable fight scenes. Not all of them work (Filmmakers need to learn that fast editing in the darkened rooms does not a good set piece make) but when they do they make the film stick well enough with a Bloody B Movie charm that genre fans will most likely enjoy. McTeigue a well versed second unit director, choreographs the stylish action with a certain degree of skill and when the set pieces work, they were entertaining.

McTeigue's film also manages to cast actors who may have characters as flimsy as the paper they were written on, but have enough engagement to keep me wondering how much they got paid to star in the movie. Naomi Harris and The Bloke from coupling struggle well with very very little while Korean Pop Superstar sensation (yet I only know him from speed racer) Rain gets along with English a hell of a lot better than your Jackie Chan's or Jet Li's and while he hasn't got their ability, he has got an adequate amount screen presence to give the fight sequences enough draw. Although it's obvious that this is a film about how Rain looks than anything else.

As mentioned before Ninja Assassin is a film that will work if you love the genre. Images invoke
Martial Art films of the past (Enter the dragon) and the film doesn't scrimp on the amount and quality of the action. McTeigue clearly has a lot of expertise in the action camp. Also in watching this, he shows as a director, he is clearly finding the type of story he likes. Be it ninjas or vigilantes McTeigue clearly likes a format of story that involves a young, naive woman who encounters a mysterious stranger and falls into his world. However unlike his first film, Ninja Assassin hasn't got an Alan Moore story to fall back on.

Hear me rant about this on The Cinematic Dramatic Podcast at Geek Planet Online