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Ninja Assassin old school, but not in a good way

What child of the 1970s doesn’t love some good old martial arts action, right? Yes, in the days of beta tapes, I couldn’t get enough Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Sonny Chiba and my favourite, ShĂ´ Kosugi.
WHERE’S THE STORY?

What child of the 1970s doesn’t love some good old martial arts action, right? Yes, in the days of beta tapes, I couldn’t get enough Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Sonny Chiba and my favourite, ShĂ´ Kosugi. The guy had everything that you would want in a ninja. Silent but deadly, and that’s all the acting skill he needed. I haven’t seen him work since about 1984.

Fast forward a few decades and Kosugi is back but only in a minor role for Ninja Assassin. This is really Rain’s movie, clearly an attempt to bring him to prominence much like what Bloodsport did for Jean-Claude van Damme or what Above the Law did for Steven Seagal.

It’s the touching story of an orphan raised by a school for assassins. Cue the violin music. Of course they bring him up to be a tough guy but when his masters dispatch someone close to him, he breaks away on his own. Hiding, he plots his revenge against the very people who raised him. This movie could easily have been called Ninja vs. Ninja.

There really isn’t much more that you need to know about the show. It’s advertised as coming from the creators of the Matrix movies, the Wachowski brothers and director James McTeigue, the guy who brought us V for Vendetta a few years ago. The inherent problem with that logic is that Vendetta was so poorly executed that it gave all of the pent-up anticipation a bitter aftertaste. McTeigue has a special way of sapping all of the energy out of what would otherwise be intriguing, energetic tales. I came to this movie with mixed expectations.

Sadly, McTeigue has struck again. While there is a healthy amount of combat, it’s about as well written and acted as any ultra low budget martial arts flick that you can catch on cable at 3 a.m. Most of the numerous action scenes are OK but not spectacular. I found it to be more fascinating watching the young boy develop into a fighter than watching the battle scenes. Otherwise it’s not really all that interesting — about as enjoyable as any play you get dragged to against your will that just seems to go on for hours. There’s a scene with a guy endlessly sharpening his sword. Literally, endlessly. I bet that if I went back into the theatre, he’d still be there.

Some of the swordplay was pretty spectacular, but that doesn’t pass for plot, character development or story. It usually takes their place and it certainly does here. I hope some day I can see a totally awesome campy movie with ninjas and zombies (and maybe Elvis). Then my life will be complete.

Ninja Assassin

Directed by: James McTeigue<br />Starring: Rain, Sung Kang, Randall Duk Kim, Yuki Iwamoto, Ben Miles, Naomie Harris, Stephen Marcus and ShĂ´ Kosugi<br />Now playing at: North Edmonton Cineplex and Scotiabank Theatre<br />Rated: 18A<br />Stars: 1.5


Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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