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  Ninja Assassin Army In The Shadows
Year: 2009
Director: James McTeigue
Stars: Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles, Rick Yune, Shô Kosugi, Jun Lee, Kai Fung Rieck, Anna Sawai, Stephen Marcus, Linh Dan Pham, Randall Duk Kim, Sung Kang, Yoong Sungwoong, Kylie Goldstein, Eleonore Weisberger, Wladimir Tarasjans
Genre: Action, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: In Osaka, a gang leader is having a tattoo put on his back by a seasoned tattooist, but is finding the experience an uncomfortable one. The tattoo artist suggests that perhaps he is getting the wrong design, and that he should have thought twice before choosing something that may be inappropriate to his character, but the gangster sees this as disrespect and pulls a gun on him. Then they are interrupted by one of his lackeys appearing with an envelope of black sand, and the tattooist looks highly disturbed, for this is the sign a ninja will soon be here...

Actually he's there already, and makes swift work of the hoods with his blade, sending limbs and heads flying in welters of blood, setting the tone for a film that deliberately harkened back to the glory days of the ninja movie in the eighties. Except this time around we had newfangled computer graphics to enhance the violence, and a lightning fast editing style to make the action look even faster than it did back in the heyday of such thrillers. This one looked as much to the Japanese ninja efforts of yesteryear as much as it did to the Western ones, therefore there was a lengthy amount of time given over to the hero's past.

A past where he was trained by none other than Shô Kosugi, who returned to the screen after a long absence to play Ozunu, the aged master of martial arts who runs the orphanage which doubles as a training camp for budding assassins. He's a cruel taskmaster, and puts our hero, Raizu, through extensive amounts of painful lessons, not least because he ends up causing Raizu to turn against him thanks to his treatment of the girl who has captured the boy's heart. He is supposed to be the star pupil through all of this, although he doesn't come across as any more remarkable than many of the other pupils, so we have to take that as read.

However, when he grows up he is played by Korean pop star Rain, and we get to appreciate that his skills have improved in leaps and bounds, as quite often he will take on a whole room of black-clad killers and emerge the victor. Now Raizu is planning his revenge on Ozunu, but has to contend with a horde of the old man's followers hunting him down, which links him into the parallel plot of the female lead, Naomie Harris, playing Europol agent Mika Coretti. She and her boss, Maslow (Ben Miles) are investigating the ninja in the face of huge scepticism from their superiors, but once they prove they are right in their suspicions, they are put in the position of being caught in the middle.

Of the law versus the ninjas it is, and fortunately for the action sequences there is no shortage of either, with the latter half marked by much combat between the two groups where guns prove no match for people who can disappear into shadows and fling throwing stars with the speed of bullets. Raizu catches up with Mika, and in a development which nobody will be surprised at, they team up, with him acting as her protector. Rain certainly has the athleticism to play his role, but character's stoicism, as he has to convey, is not necessarily the most charismatic personality trait, and he doesn't get much to do when he's not beating people up. Then again, complications are what have been avoided in the script, which was reportedly largely rewritten by J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame, so you can sit back with Ninja Assassin safe in the knowledge that if you're getting restless, another battle will be along in a minute. Music by Ilan Eshkeri.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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