Few filmmakers are better at visually dazzling, preposterous fantasy than the Wachowskis, Larry and Andy, who are back on their game as producers of the enjoyably demented Ninja Assassin. James McTeigue, the Wachowskis' collaborator on the far superior V for Vendetta, may be calling the shots in the director's chair. But those slow-motion sequences studded with spinning decapitations, hacked-off limbs and whirling discs that take out eyes and ears—not to mention the explosive opening and closing segments—have their origins in the bullet-time whizbangery of the Matrix trilogy, carried to bloody new heights.
Korean heartthrob Rain, maybe the only person willing to acknowledge he appeared in the Wachowskis' eyesore Speed Racer, plays Raizo, the somber, sullen lead character and ace ninja on the run. He kicks and kills his way through a plot cobbled together from a host of past projects: this stop, Panic in the Streets; next up, The Fugitive and Badlands. But McTeigue and the Wachowskis, along with fellow producer Joel Silver and writer/script doctor J. Michael Straczynski, have melded all the stolen parts into a martial-arts revenge saga that grooves on its blithely implausible CGI and videogame wizardry.
The skeletal storyline shows Raizo being kidnapped as an orphan, recruited into the mighty Ozunu Clan, then departing in anger after being asked to kill a childhood friend. Years later, he's on the run from both former comrades and worldwide spy and police agencies. There's the hint of a romantic attraction between Raizo and a pursuing Europol agent (Naomie Harris), who goes from researching the Clan and arguing with her cynical superior (Ben Miles) to firing guns and fleeing ninjas in record time. Rick Yune and Sho Kosugi are also on board, applying their thespian gifts to dialogue such as "You betrayed your family" and "I'm here to kill you, brother."
Ninja Assassin may step on its own shuriken whenever folks stop leaping and flailing, but if you pay to see a movie called Ninja Assassin, rest assured the Wachowskis and Co. will not cheat you of one flying head or disengaged extremity. Reveling in a body count that requires numbers Stephen Hawking couldn't calculate, the toll starts mounting when the cameras start rolling. The ensuing 99 minutes of over-the-top gore are interrupted only by unfortunate moments of human interest—oh, and great shots of Berlin.
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