Movies From the Black Lagoon: Ninja Assassin

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Ninja Assassin - 2009, Rated R
By Tom Doty

A renegade Ninja takes on the Clan that trained him in this high octane Kung-Fu fest from the producers of 'The Matrix."
The Wachowski Brothers (Andy and Larry) had a lot of explaining to do after last year's 'Speed Racer" but they get their groove back by lending their keen eye for visuals, and enormous wads of cash, to another director (James McTiegue). The result is the mother of all Ninja movies that, once and for all, solidifies these killers in black pajamas as the coolest cats of action cinema.
The film begins with a crackerjack sequence (that has nothing to do with the rest of the movie but who cares) that showcases how gnarly Ninjas can be. We drop in on a New Age Japanese hood getting a tattoo from an old school ink artist. The gangster may sport a rocking hair-do but he's a wannabe tough guy at best. The tattoo guy, on the other hand, actually survived an encounter with a Ninja but refuses to even say their name out loud. The gangster and his cronies think the old guy is hilarious and they enjoy watching him wince as they chant "Ninja." Teasing the elderly turns out to be the last bit of fun these doofs enjoy as Ninjas promptly show up and reduce the gang into assorted puddles of guts.
Now the film actually starts to develop a plot (or excuse to have a bunch of Ninjas kill people) as we meet a disgraced member of the ancient art of killing, named Raizo. Flashbacks reveal that he was raised in the Ozunu Clan. Ozunu turns out to be a Dickensian sort that lures orphans into his school where he can beat on them. If they survive his abuse they become Ninjas. If they don't then they are pulped and transformed into valuable mulch for his Banzai garden.
Raizo does pretty well at his classes which include: learning to walk silently, learning to kill guys using all body parts, and understanding the valuable lesson of being in pain (which Ozunu gets a perverse pleasure out of teaching). Trouble looms when he falls for the only female student but that goes south when she challenges Ozunu's methods and becomes the latest nutrient in the garden. Raizo eventually decides to leave the school but not before scarring Ozunu with a nasty looking Ninja weapon (that appears to be a large fish hook attached to a length of chain).
Raizo is on the run but when his former cronies target a female agent he finally gets a chance to save a woman from Ozunu's wrath. Luckily this means he's have to take on everyone from his old school in awesome battle scenes that will require lots of acrobatics, CGI effects, and copious amounts of gore. It all comes full circle when Raizo must square off against his master while their school burns down around them. Great stuff that barely stops for a breather.
This is the Ninja movie we've all been waiting for and it doesn't disappoint. They only slow down for brief scenes involving dull European spies who begin to suspect that there is more to Ninja lore than a series of bad movies starring Michael Dudikof. In that way this is like one of those "Aliens vs. Predator" films as it must rely on these interludes to set up the action (and allow the audience time to microwave an egg roll). The acting is adequate and Ninja fans will be happy to note that Sho Kosugi (who starred in all of those American made Ninja flicks of the 80's) is cast as the evil Ozunu. It's a fitting tribute to the genre and Kosugi has still got the chops. This is macho escapism at its best. Enjoy.
Best Line: "I once took a Taebo class but that is the extent of my Kung-Fu abilities."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: