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'Ninja Assassin' belongs in the shadows

Article Published: Dec. 3, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Ninja Assassin' belongs in the shadows

"Mortal Kombaaaaaat!" Rain and Sho Kosugi star in 'Ninja Assassin.'

Ninjas aren't supposed to be seen, and the same should apply to Ninja Assassin.

Perhaps the most boring ninja movie ever, this redundantly titled CGI gore-fest manages to fail on all levels, from its contrived style to botched attempts at honoring its classic predecessors.

But when Ninja Assassin does not succeed, it obnoxiously tries and tries again, delivering repetitive and uninspired fight sequences sandwiched between two slices of thin, moldy plot. It's a far cry from director John McTeigue's V for Vendetta, a thought-provoking and moody thriller that entertains and captivates. Ninja Assassin, on the other hand, provokes disinterest and little else.

The titular Ninja Assassin is Raizo (played by Korean actor Rain), an orphaned boy raised by ninjas and trained by Master Ozunu (Sho Kosugi, Enter the Ninja). Under Ozunu's cruel tutelage, Raizo is scarred physically and emotionally as he develops into his master's most promising pupil.

But to complete his training, Raizo must abandon all emotion, a lesson his best friend, Kiriko (Anna Sawai), refuses to adopt. Instead, she attempts to escape and is subsequently executed by one of her peers.

As an adult, Raizo has completed his first assassination, but before being officially inducted into the ninja ranks, he must perform a similar execution. He refuses, instead attacking Ozunu, killing beaucoups of his orphaned brethren, and ultimately fleeing for his life.

He somehow ends up in Berlin, working as a contract killer and attracting the attention of two Europol agents (Naomie Harris, 28 Days Later, and Ben Miles, V for Vendetta) and his vengeful clan.

Madness ensues, as does a seemingly endless stream of poorly choreographed fight scenes. Choppy editing and shoddy lighting make it tough to tell what in the name of Miyagi is going on - not that anyone cares, since the characters are duller than plastic throwing stars.

Computer-generated imagery is also used to ill effect in Ninja Assassin, lending a cartoonish quality to its action sequences, which drearily attempt to mimic its producers' (the Wachowski brothers) brainchild, The Matrix trilogy.

But while The Matrix's landmark special effects were bolstered by a compelling story, Assassin's stand out like a ninja in Walmart - absurd, out of place and aggravatingly menacing - especially in a genre defined by stunt work and talented martial artists.

Even that orangey blood of yore is replaced by an obviously computer-generated substitute, and the would-be gruesome killings are so haphazardly animated that they garner laughs rather than cringes.

In essence, Ninja Assassin looks more like a video game than a movie, minus interactivity and, most notably, fun. The film takes itself entirely too seriously, thus assassinating itself from the get-go. Ninja movies of yesteryear, regardless of cheese factor, are undeniably fun.

Take 1984's Ninja 3: The Domination, starring Kosugi, Lucinda Dickey and some hairy-backed wormy guy, and try not to laugh when our heroine wards off ninja spirits through the magic of Jazzercise - sheer lunacy, but fun all the same.

Ninja Assassin lacks all of the above, Jazzercise included.

Ninja Assassin, rated R for strong bloody stylized violence throughout and language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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