Saturday 3 April 2010

Ninja Assassin (Scotsman 22/01/10)

Ninja Assassin (18) **
Directed by: James McTeigue
Starring: Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles

We’ve reached the point where even Hollywood’s original ideas seem secondhand. Ninja Assassin feels like another dreary live-action version of a console game or comic strip, but turns out to be based on nothing more than an under-inspired screenplay by Changeling’s J. Michael Straczynski. These are the adventures of blade-carrying hitman Raizo (Korean pop star Rain, a light drizzle at best) schooled to believe “pain breeds weakness”. While our hero flaunts his torso and performs push-ups on beds of nails, flashbacks reveal how he abandoned his training upon learning his father was raising a ninja army for hire to interested tyrants.

Tailing these warriors across latter-day Berlin are “Europol” agents Miles and Harris, inhabiting their own, not terribly exciting film that requires chunks of exposition to be gabbled in underground car parks. Director McTeigue, the Wachowski protégé who did a better job bowdlerising Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, proves more interested in laying on the thick CG splatter intended to lure adolescent males away from their X-Boxes; yet after Sherlock Holmes, it’s the second Joel Silver production in a month to demonstrate all the expensive surface distraction in the world can’t compensate for leaden plotting, paper-thin characters and lousy dialogue.

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