Ninja Assassin - Legendary Pictures
A movie about ninjas produced by the Wachowski brothers and Legendary Pictures. Awesome. Or is it?
To be honest, I was dissapointed by this movie. It had a predictable storyline and the fight scenes were difficult to follow as they were very dark. I'll come back to these. The acting was adequate and the story and ending left it open to a sequel. The main weaknesses of the movie for me were the slightly silly feeling Europol agency and agents, they felt like they came right out of a Hong Kong Jackie Chan movie to me, and the lack of emotional investment in the main character's motive.
The latter shortcoming was a result of the way the backstory was shot. Often I could not tell which child was which and so there was a difficulty in attaching the emotions to the right person. Also the backstory scenes leaped ahead years at a time and with a limited building of the emotional connection between the characters that was, to me, a result of the brief nature of some of the clips. In the end I didn't really feel the lines the main protagonist were throwing around in the heat of his revenge were powerful enough to really motivate that revenge considering the desparate brashness of it. But that's just me. In reality, I didn't need any of this because the story arc was pretty predictable with maybe one or two slight novelties along the way, and at that some of them even seemed gimmicky or cheesy to me.
Visually, the movie had a lot to offer. Some original and cool effects and fight scenes that were unfortunately often hard to really make out. I will concede I watched this movie at Galleria which seems to have a poorer viewing experience than a Silver City (poorer sound too). The darkness, though, was for effect as the ninjas lurk in shadow and it is their magic. I'd like to see this again on a good TV to catch what I missed in the theatre. One thing that I could not miss was the blood and visceral death effects. The blood here isn't the bright, contrasting, almost comical Kill Bill blood but the deep ruddy blood of film noir but gushing in gouts that could sicken a horror afficionado.
In the end I had to ask myself, what was this movie trying to be? I think, it was trying to be a nostalgic ninja movie updated with some cool ninja effects and brutally hyper-realistic fight scenes (realistic if you take the premise that ninja are as supernatural as legends posit) that don't flinch at the question, what happens if someone with incredible strength hits you full swing in the head with a razor sharp katana. These things it excels at and so, this movie succeeds in the fashion of Ninja Scroll. In that regard, I think a well considered sequel could have a place and if they beef up the story (now that the stage is set) to incorporate the other 8 ninja clans we could have a very cool movie.
My recommendation: If you are not a steel-gutted fan of ninjas or a voracious consumer of the occasionally innovative action special effect, don't bother with this movie.