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Ninja Assassin



Not to sound like the beginning of a K-tel ad, but, hey, remember the '80s? That was a time when ninja movies were all the rage (then again, so was the breakdance film), when efforts like "Ninja III: The Domination" could open wide at a theater near you, and then enjoy a long, healthy life the next summer at Bob's Video Haven, or whatever mom-and-pop VHS emporium you frequented.

I don't know about you, but I miss those days. And ninjas.

"Ninja Assassin" is a throwback to those times. It even features Shô Kosugi, who fought his way through a number of mid-'80s flicks, like "Nine Deaths of the Ninja" and "Enter the Ninja." Ninja, ninja, ninja!

The ninja in question here is Raizo (Korean pop star Rain), who's raised from a young age to be a silent, lethal presence, slicing and dicing his way through pockets of evil. He learns well, but doesn't always see eye to eye with his superiors, so he goes freelance, so to speak. Ninjas don’t like that.

Thus begins a good 90 minutes (give or take) of ultra-violent bloodbaths, in which all the liquid is rendered in obviously fake CGI — all the better to spill and splatter the screen with. With flicks of the chain and ninja stars, Raizo dispatches all those who chase him, sometimes limb by limb. Damn, this kid is efficient!

He finds a friend in government agent Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris), the very woman who's supposed to be bringing him down. Her sniffing about puts her on various ninjas' death list, and Raizo swoops in to save her from the chopping block.

As the title would suggest, "Ninja Assassin" is a big, dumb action picture, and I want nothing more. Easily besting his tepid "V for Vendetta," director James McTeigue makes the movie exceedingly slick, like a car commercial, albeit one when the car intentionally skids into someone. This martial-arts feast is too packed with scrappy skirmishes to be accused of being boring; in fact, it's as if McTeigue took the teahouse sequence of his producers' "The Matrix" and extended it into a feature film, wire-fu and all.

And added ninjas. And plenty of 'em.

Yes, it's bereft of logic. No, you're not supposed to care. If there's anything negative about "Ninja Assassin," it's that it didn't come out in 1985. —Rod Lott


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