To get the ball rolling, the film from its gore-filled promo campaign about mercenary killers in black overalls accomplishes its premeditated origins to bait spectators. The movie knows its audience — action junkies satisfied with B-grade action movies featuring deadly ninjas who are deft in disappearing in the shadows. But it starts out well enough with a tattoo maker's anecdote about stealthy and mysterious ninjas.
The experience is supercharged in the obligatory rush of wild, gymnastic, fighting sequences involving geysers of bloods and flying body parts by James McTeigue, the director of the trancing V for Vendetta; Andy and Larry Wachowski (Speed Racer, The Matrix) as producers, producer Joel Silver (The Matrix, Lethal Weapon), screenwriters Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling, Babylon 5 and the animated series He-Man) - who essentially rewrote the script in 53 hours flat for an impending deadline.
The film is a failed and ludicrous mission that bands deliberate sequences showing off South Korean (and once boy-band member) Rain, and his chiseled physique. McTeigue and the screenplay put the actor through an oft-seen exercise routine involving a Kyoketsu Shoge (a trademark weapon made of two double-edged blades tied to a rope) and a platform made up of sharp blades.
Rain as Raizo is an orphan raised by a cult of assassins — the Ozunu Clan — concealed within anonymous mountains. The clan is headed by Ozunu (a rasp-voiced Sho Kosugi), whose scheme is to tutor through intense body-paining brutality the next batch of coldhearted and expressionless hired guns for governments that need some meddlesome-bum bumped off. Apparently shurikens and katanas (single-edged Japanese swords and star-shaped razorblades ninjas often use) are the preferred weapons of choice rather than sniper guns.
Raizo is an obvious prodigy and McTeigue insists that Rain or his character aren't as impassive as the script makes him out to be by either hurtling him in one skirmish after another or a cycling back-story told in flashbacks that introduce an ill-fated love interest Kiriko (an effective Anna Sawai), a kind-soul trapped in the same academy. Raizo, when he escapes from the clan is a typical example of a tortured soul, who still drills his trained body to perfection.
Back in the present, Mika Coretti (a lifeless Naomi Harris) is a Europol agent in Berlin who finds links between the Ozunu clan and political murders. This sets the clan after her and the hiding Raizo a chance to fend-off the clan, member-by-member in lackluster combat.
Running at 96 minutes, the movie stars Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles, Rick Yune and Sho Kosugi. Ninja Assassin is rated R for absurd bloodletting violence.