Reasons to Hate Ninja Assassin
Chris: How could a guy not get excited at his first glance at the film's poster when spotting it in a theatre lobby? The damn thing is called Ninja Assassin, there's blood splattered all over the white background, and someone is running at us sporting (what looks like) a Kusari Gama obviously ready to kick some ass. Consider me sold. Heck, I was even willing to forgive the not-so-promising commercials because of that damn poster. Alas, this was merely a case of the marketing department delivering more than the product within could ever hope to.
Josh: With a title like Ninja Assassin, I was expecting a full throwback to the 80's especially with Sho Kosugi as part of the cast. I have seen plenty of chop-socky movies in my day so I know that it takes more than the word "ninja" in the title to make a good movie. This was just a standard, crappy action movie that has thrown a cool word into the title trying to pretend it is something other than an impostor at the multiplex. I wish this had gone straight to video because it comes off like a quick, lazy, action flick made by a company like The Asylum. The younger generation will eat this up because it is targeted right at the video game generation who like it loud and fast. Amazingly, it has worked and many people are calling this one of the best action flicks of the year. Am I missing something?
IT STOMPS ON SHO KOSUGI'S LEGACY
Chris: One of my best remembered ninja images when growing up in the mid-80's is the opening scene in Ninja III: The Domination where a brown-cloaked ninja slices his way through a Los Angeles golf course cutting up policemen and golfers alike before being gunned down by the fuzz. It made such an impact on my young brain I took note of the actor playing the role and actively sought out his other movies. That actor was none other than the mighty Sho Kosugi and he's thrilled me with his martial arts prowess in such films as Revenge of the Ninja and the vastly underrated Blind Fury. Which is why my initial excitement of seeing his name in the credits dissipated like a heavy kick to the stomach when I realized they weren't going to let him do what he does best (use his hands and feet as deadly weapons, of course!) and instead have him stand around trying to look imposing before appearing in a weak showdown with our hero during a finale that felt more like a bad sequel to Chuck Norris' Delta Force movies than a martial arts showcase.
Josh: For those of us who grew up with 80's action movies, Sho Kosugi was one of the coolest dudes around. He brought the ninja to the masses with a string of movies in the 80's and then faded into the shadows while leaving behind a legacy of coolness. This was all screwed up when he decided to sign on to Ninja Assassin. Rather than showing that he is still a stud like Sonny Chiba did in Kill Bill, Kosugi has become a stock villain who frankly looks like he doesn't belong. He is not cool and he is not threatening. I know this has a lot to do with the terrible script but I just wish that he had made a better choice of movie to make a comeback with. I wonder if he feels the same.
Chris: If you've visited this site long enough, you'll know that both Josh and myself aren't the biggest fans of computer generated effects work. When it comes to horror/b-movies, we'd rather see the practical effects magic of the Rick Baker or Tom Savini's of the World. Sometimes I'm willing to overlook CG but here's where I make my biggest exception. Get out some f**king corn syrup and red dye! All you're doing by even having your blood sprays done by computer is: a) making me angry and b) delivering some of the most unconvincing and fake looking blood I've ever seen. This isn't the first movie I've seen use it but, considering how much gore they've seen fit to jam into Ninja Assassin, it's definitely the shining example of why not to.
Josh: I am not a fan of computed generated effects in general but what I really don't understand is when CG blood is used. Maybe it is cleaner on set but there is nothing like seeing the gore spray across the screen and covering everything it comes into contact with. Even if you are going for a comic book feel, this is one area that should not be messed with, as it looks so damn fake. From the opening scene, I knew my expectations for a throwback to one of the genres I loved so much were going to be quashed. It only got worse from there. If I knew it was going to end up as artificial it did, I would have gone to see 2012 to really see what can be done with CGI.
Chris: I'll admit that I liked James McTeigue's debut feature, V for Vendetta, but here he just goes for your standard MTV style of action direction - that being plenty of quick cuts, in-tight shots, and enough confusion that many times I had no freaking idea what was going on. Now, I don't know about you, but when when I'm going to a movie about ninjas, I want to damn well see them doing ninja things! It's this sped-up kind of A.D.D. fuelled action (which is most evident in both Crank movies and Shoot 'Em Up) that's becoming more and more prevalent and ruining the action genre in the process.
Josh: I don't know when action movies changed to the bazillion cuts per second, camera flying around style that is now prevalent in Hollywood movies but I don't like it. I want to see what is going on especially while watching a martial arts movie. For all I know, lead actor Rain was not even in the scenes because you could never focus long enough to see anybody's face. I felt like the action scenes were a big blur to cover the fact that director James McTeigue seemed to lack confidence in these sequences. This was particularly bad in a lengthy segment in the middle of the film where the camera was bouncing around like it was strapped to the head of Roadrunner on a coke binge.
IT'S NINJA ASSASSIN
Chris: There's one way I know that what I'm watching is truly awful: a get a massive headache. And when Ninja Assassin's credits finally rolled I probably could have eaten four Advil. It's a movie that has absolutely no regard for its brethren and even though I freely admit the plots in ninja movies aren't exactly deep even they have more character development and sense than what's on display here. I never once gave a shit about our hero, the "I'm only here to quickly, and implausibly, fall in love with the hero" Interpol agent, or anyone else. I wondered why the Hell almost any tiny event (such as a car driving over a loose board) seemed to trigger a flashback sequence. I felt my goodwill sinking further and further into the ground as I endured the most painful 99 minutes in a theatre in recent memory. But, much to Josh's relief, he wasn't the only person sitting in there opening night wondering just how the Hell they could screw up a ninja movie so badly.
Josh: If there are real ninjas in the world, the people behind this movie should watch their backs. There is no respect for the mystique of the ninja and the whispered chanting at times made me feel like I was watching a lame movie about ghosts. If I was a ninja, I would be hunting down the people responsible and teaching them what ninjas are really capable of. Further to that, this is one boring movie that is terribly written, has some of the most uninspired characters I have seen in a long time, and will hopefully be forgotten as soon as it is out of the theatres. It feels as though the script was rushed together with the most basic of stock characters, a forced love interest, and a plot that has no idea where it is going. This is doing to ninjas what the Twilight franchise is doing to vampires - it is taking away the edge and danger that have made these mythical figures so intriguing in the first place. It's a shame.