July 24, 2009

REVIEW: Ninja Assassin

It's funny: the thought of an American pop star becoming an action movie hero (e.g. Justin Timberlake as Green Lantern) seems just patently ridiculous to most. And yet, here's a Korean pop star who calls himself Rain seems perfectly plausible as the baddest, bloodiest, most hard core Ninja assassin on the planet.

I wonder if I'd feel the same if his music was on continuous rotation on MTV?


Because Ninja Assassin is, far and away, the best martial arts movie I've seen in a big theater.... probably since The Matrix.

Which makes sense, since it's produced by The Wachowski Brothers and directed by their protege, James McTeigue.

The film follows Rain as Raizo, an orphan raised from near birth to be a merciless killer, as he cuts a bloody swath of revenge across Berlin, while an intrepid Interpol researcher (played by Naomi Harris, who opts for the soft & vulnerable play instead of her 28 Days Later she-warrior mode) is trying to uncover the ancient secret of a clan of mythical ninjas who may be responsible for countless political killings over the years. It intercuts between Raizo's youth in the brutal orphanage/ninja factory and the modern ninja war that literally spills out onto the streets of modern Berlin.

Honestly, I couldn't tell you where the actual stunt work and wire work ends and the CGI begins in most places, because the choreography is just seamless, frenetic, and breathtaking.

Oh, and did I mention that the alternate title for this film should be "Buckets of Blood"? When the director introduced the film at last night's extra secret exclusive screening at Comic-Con 2009, he made a point of telling the audience that they shouldn't fear the gore. Yeah, it's pretty violent. Like, half-a-head lopped off in the first 3 minutes violent.

But it's definitely worth it. Beyond the fact that it's action packed, as a viewer, I totally bought all of the emotional relationships in the film that make the action matter. You care who lives or dies, who's betrayed and who outsmarts.

In short, it's bloody f'n good. If you're like me and grew up on a steady Saturday afternoon diet of Bruce Li, the Shaw Brothers, and the like, do yourself a favor and check it out when it's released in November.