November 11, 2009

Movie Update - Ninja Assassin

Rain with his new physique. Just hope the movie is as good as his body.

If what is stated in the movie critique by the Korea Herald is true, it looks like Rain's latest big-screen offering "Ninja Assassin" will rely heavily on his star power to pull in the eyeballs when the movie is released worldwide.

Being a fan of the Wachowski brothers' Matrix trilogy movie, I was already disappointed by their last movie outing "Speed Racer". When I heard Rain was roped for the lead in the Ninja Assassin, I was hoping that the Wachowski brothers will 'salvage' their reputation and come up with a hit.

To be fair, I have yet to view the movie. But if Ninja Assassin is just about slick action sequences, high body count and a thin plot, I would definitely give it a miss and wait for it to be released on the cable. Guess I will have to wait for more reviews before deciding to part with my money for this movie.

Read on for the full review by the Korea Herald.

'Ninja Assassin' misses the target

Humorless, preposterous, and soaked in blood, "Ninja Assassin" turns out to be thinly-plotted schlock from a team of pedigree filmmakers who should have known better. "The day Rain did his first scene in 'Speed Racer,' the Wachowski brothers called me and said 'This guy is unbelievable. He's a natural, our dream come true.' We began to plan 'Ninja Assassin' immediately afterward," producer Joel Silver said in an earlier interview.

Unfortunately for "world star" Rain, what was to be his breakout film falls way short of what "Enter the Dragon" was for Bruce Lee. No doubt that was what the Wachowski Brothers were aiming to do by gambling on a relative unknown in the Western world.

Rain plays Raizo, one of the world's deadliest assassins trained by the Ozunu Clan - an underground band of killers that has remained hidden for generations by posing as a mythical organization.

Robbed of his childhood, Raizo is transformed into a merciless Katana-wielding killing machine. Breaking free from their mountain lair, he plans to exact revenge on the clan for killing his first love.

In his quest for revenge, he gets help from a Europol agent Mika Coretti - played by Naomi Harris - who stumbles upon a money trail connecting a slew of high profile political assassinations around the world committed by the Ozunu.

As she begins to uncover the truth behind the murders, she too, becomes their target and is saved by Raizo when assassins emerge to kill her in Berlin.

By now, plots like these have become the silver screen version of painting-by-numbers in the same manner as Tom Clancy inspired techno-thriller novels.

But the plot does have all of the makings of a straightforward pulp action thriller, as its opening set-piece suggests. In it Raizo ambushes a gang of Yakuza members, with heads and limbs severed and buckets of blood everywhere.

The level of over-the-top ultra-violence established through this opener is unfortunately juxtaposed with a serious tone devoid of much irony.

The film is not a nod to pulpy B-grade kung-fu genre of the 70s, nor is it a polished action flick geared towards a mainstream audience. Instead it's stuck in the middle ground, in an area unlikely to appeal to fans of either genre.

When production on the film was announced, anticipation was high, as it was written and produced by the makers of The Matrix trilogy, with directing duties falling on James McTiegue, the veteran director who scored both a critical hit and modest box office success with 2005's V for Vendetta.

But it seems somewhere down the line the creative vision of the producers and the director clashed without either camp realizing.

Perhaps they realized during post-production they had a potential turkey on their hands - the film's marketing has focused on Rain and the physical transformation he underwent during six months of grueling training with the stunt and fight team that trained the actors in "300."

And the result is there on the screen. The 28-year-old actor is shown sans shirt as if he's allergic to fabric except for a leather jacket.

He's ripped. His female fans will love him - as long as they don't get too squeamish from seeing all the blood.

He does a decent job with the few lines he has throughout the 98-minute running time.

The verdict is still out on whether this will be his breakthrough role and it will be interesting to see if his star power alone will be able to generate enough revenue in Asia to warrant future high-profile roles.


By Song Woong-ki

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