Ninja Assassin is a terrible, awful, ass-blastingly heinous movie, but it’s also the rare movie manages to be both very very bad and very entertaining. To call it so-bad-it’s-good would be to suggest that it’s good on some level; it’s not. But it is one feverishly bloody, ass-kicking jolt to your happy place. Rain is like the Korean Statham, only he could probably take down Chev Chelios, Jason Bourne, all six James Bonds, and Jason Voorhies with his eyes closed while eating a bowl of Lucky Charms, and ain’t nobody as magically delicious as this motherfucker — dude handles a chain with a blade on the end with the speed, precision, and timing of two gay synchronized swimmers performing 69 on one another.
Take out the fight scenes, which are thankfully numerous, and you’re not left with much else, however. Matthew Sand’s debut screenplay is like “Walker Texas Ranger” crossed with A Fistful of Dollars and run through a retarded wayback machine. It centers on Raizo, a ninja assassin who was raised among scores of other orphans who were taken in by a seriously cold-hearted Ozunu (Shô Kosugi), who beats all the humanity out of his children and turns them into flailing arms and legs who hide in the shadows and only come out to separate body parts from the torso. Raizo, however, turns on his clan when they drive a sword through his sweetheart’s chest when she attempts to get the hell out of Dodgeosaki.
Presently, the clan of assassins have been hired by governments and tasked with executing very important people. A Europol researcher (Naomi Harris) stumbles into the organization of assassins, and Raizo comes to her aid before a gaggle of Shadow Warriors callously remove her head from her neck.
It’s a ridiculously plotted film, if you could even call it that. Moreover, in the actressin’ department, Rain makes Jackie Chan look like Paul Giamatti, and as if to bring the rest of the cast down to Rain’s level, he’s surrounded by C-level straight-to-DVD thespians who deliver their lines with more ham than a Blimpie. Rain himself is some sort of charisma vacuum that actually sucks the charm out of everything around him. Yet he’s paradoxically magnetic, really easy on the eyes, and cut like a motherfucking ice sculpture.
I’m not familiar enough with martial arts to really understand what James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) was going for in Ninja Assassin. He’s clearly a talented director, which suggests to me that the 1987 aesthetic and the horribly written screenplay was intentional — an homage to bad kung-fu movies (the dialogue here is strikingly similar to the dubbing of the former). Indeed, it feels at times as though McTiegue is gluing modern fight scenes and copious amounts of red gravy onto an ’80s kung-fu film. But Bruce Lee fans aren’t likely to appreciate Ninja Assassin , because McTiegue swaps out bone-crunches and wire stunts for fountains of CGI blood and enough cut/slides to make a pastrami slicer turn crimson with envy. Jesus Christ — the cut slides! The glorious, glorious cut slides. Ultraviolence may not be your bag, but it’s done with so much glee in Ninja Assassin, that it’ll make your heart sweat. It’s a beautiful cross between Zack Snyder and Guy Ritchie stylism crossed with the fluidity of the Wachowskis (who produced) — it’s brutal, yet beautiful, like an arterial Rothko that spews and spurts while Rain floats through the cartoon gore like some sort of hyper-kinetic snow that floats at the speed of sound.
It’s a preposterously bad film and so dumb it should have to wear a helmet, but it mixes grim blathering (and a horrible score) with an almost over-aggressive and lunatic violence so deftly that it’s hard not to get caught up in the joyful viscous splatters. It’s not a good movie, but if you’re into faceless mayhem and gratuitous blood, and the proliferation of horror-movie remakes isn’t getting your rocks off, Ninja Assassination ought to satisfy your hematomania.