Ninja Assassin is a 2009 German-American neo-noir martial arts film directed by James McTeigue. The story was written by Matthew Sand, with a screenplay by J. Michael Straczynski. The film stars South Korean pop musician Rain as a disillusioned assassin looking for retribution against his former mentor, played by ninja film legend Sho Kosugi. Ninja Assassin explores political corruption, child endangerment and the impact of violence. The Wachowskis, Joel Silver, and Grant Hill produced the film for Legendary Pictures, Dark Castle Entertainment and Silver Pictures. It was distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||James McTeigue|
|Story by||Matthew Sand|
|Music by||Ilan Eshkeri|
|Cinematography||Karl Walter Lindenlaub|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$61.6 million|
Ninja Assassin premiered in theaters across the United States on November 25, 2009 and received mixed reviews from critics. Its box office gross was $61,590,252, of which $38,122,883 was from North America. The film's budget was $40 million.
The Ozunu Clan, led by the ruthless Lord Ozunu, trains orphans from around the world to become the ultimate ninja assassins. Raizo is one of the orphans. The Ozunu Clan's training is extremely brutal, especially for Raizo since he is to be the next successor of the clan. The only kindness he ever feels is from a young kunoichi named Kiriko, with whom he eventually develops a romantic bond. As time goes by, Kiriko becomes disenchanted with the Ozunu's routine and decides to abandon it. One rainy night, Kiriko climbs a wall to escape and encourages Raizo to join her, but he chooses to stay. Branded as a traitor, Kiriko is captured and later executed in front of Raizo by their elder ninja brother Takeshi, who impales her through the heart.
Years later, an adult Raizo is instructed by Lord Ozunu to complete his first assassination. After the mission, Raizo meets the rest of his clan atop a city skyscraper in Berlin. There, Lord Ozunu orders him to execute a kunoichi traitor. Remembering Kiriko's death, Raizo slashes Lord Ozunu's face with his kyoketsu-shoge and fights against his fellow ninjas. Barely surviving, he falls off the rooftop and into a river. After years, Raizo recovers and trains on his own to intervene and foil all of Ozunu's assassination attempts.
Meanwhile, Europol agent Mika Coretti has been investigating money-linked political murders and finds out that they are possibly connected to the Ozunu. She defies her superior, Ryan Maslow, and retrieves secret agency files to find out more about the investigation. Mika meets Raizo and convinces him to see Maslow for protection, as well as to provide evidence against the Ozunu. However, Raizo is arrested by Maslow and abducted by Europol agents for interrogation.
Although feeling betrayed, Mika is assured by Maslow that he is still on her side and gives her a tracking device for emergencies. The Ozunu ninjas infiltrate the Europol safe house, where Raizo is being held, in an attempt to kill him and everybody inside. Mika frees Raizo and they both manage to escape, but Raizo suffers near-fatal wounds. Mika then takes him to a motel to hide. Resting in the motel, Mika implants the tracking device into Raizo, as the ninjas remain in pursuit. Unable to fend off the Ozunu, she hides outside the motel until Special Forces arrive to help her.
By the time they arrive, the ninjas have already kidnapped Raizo, bringing him before Lord Ozunu for execution. During the transport back to the Ozunu, Raizo uses his ninja techniques to heal his own wounds. Europol Special Forces and tactical teams led by Maslow storm the secluded Ozunu retreat (nestled in the mountains) using the tracking device on Raizo.
Turning the night into day by saturating the sky above with powerful flares, the military forces are able to fight the ninjas on their own terms. In the confusion, Mika frees Raizo from his bindings. He proceeds to kill Takeshi and confront Lord Ozunu in a sword duel. Mika interferes to help but gets stabbed by Lord Ozunu. Enraged, Raizo uses a "shadow blending" technique for the first time to distract and kill Lord Ozunu. Mika, seemingly fatally wounded, is in fact saved by a quirk of birth: her heart is actually on the right side of her chest.
With the Ozunu defeated, Europol leaves. Raizo stays behind in the ruins of the Ozunu retreat. Climbing the same wall Kiriko did in the past, he looks out at the surrounding countryside with a smile, feeling his freedom for the first time.
- Rain as Raizo
- Sungwoong Yoon as Young Raizo
- Lee Joon as Teenage Raizo
- Naomie Harris as Mika Coretti
- Ben Miles as Ryan Maslow
- Rick Yune as Takeshi
- Sho Kosugi as Lord Ozunu
- Randall Duk Kim as Tattoo Master
- Sung Kang as Hollywood
- Jonathan Chan-Pensley as Yakuza Henchman
- Ill-Young Kim as Yakuza Mohawk
- Yuki Iwamoto as Yakuza Couch
- Linh-Dan Pham as Pretty Ninja
- Yu Fang as Laundromat Manager
- Adriana Altaras as Landlady
- Kylie Liya Goldstein as Young Kiriko
- Eleonore Weisgerber as Mrs. Sabatin
- Wladimir Tarasjanz as Aleksei Sabatin
- Kai Fung Rieck as Teenage Takeshi
- Anna Sawai as Teenage Kiriko
- Thorston Manderlay as Agent Zabranski
- Richard Van Weyden as Ibn Battuta
- Mina Ghousi as Kid with Envelope
- Hans Hohlbein as Mika's Neighbor
- Stephen Marcus as Kingpin
- Nhi Ngoc Nguyen-Hermann as Girl on Roof
- Guido Föhrweisser as Lead Europol Agent
- Tim Williams as Europol Cell Guard
- David Leitch as Europol Door Guard
- Wolfgang Stegemann as Europol Pointman
- Steffen Groth as Europol Guard
- Jens Neuhaus as Europol Guard
- Patrick Pinheiro as Maslow's Aide
- Matthias Schendel as Task Force Agent
- Johannes Ahn as Medic
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (November 2014)
|One day I got a call from the Wachowskis, who are friends of mine. And they said we need some help on something, can you meet us tomorrow and talk about something. I met with them and they had a draft for this movie called Ninja Assassin which wasn't where they wanted it to be. And they said we need a whole new draft, a whole new script, and we go to camera in six weeks. And I said, "Okay, when do you have to have the scripts?" And they said it had to go out to actors that Friday. So I went home and put on a pot of coffee, and I wrote essentially a whole new script in 53 hours.|
|—J. Michael Straczynski, writer|
Ninja Assassin was directed by James McTeigue, who had previously worked with producers The Wachowskis and Joel Silver on V for Vendetta four years prior. The Wachowskis were inspired to make the film by actor Rain's impressive ninja-based fight scenes in their 2008 film Speed Racer. The initial screenplay was written by Matthew Sand, and was rewritten by J. Michael Straczynski only six weeks prior to filming due to the Wachowskis' initial dissatisfaction. Martial Artist turned actor Sho Kosugi had previously starred in a number of ninja movies playing ninja villains and heroes several times in the 1980s, and had become a cult icon, hence his role as the antagonist Lord Ozunu, named after En no Ozunu, a 7th-century Japanese mystic and one of the developers of ninjutsu. "If you've ever watched any ninja films from the 1980s, you know that Sho Kosugi is the ninja; he is the man," asserts McTeigue.
McTeigue cited various influences in filming Ninja Assassin such as the films Panic in the Streets (1950), The Getaway (1972), Badlands (1973), Ninja Scroll (1993), and the anime Samurai Champloo (2004–2005). Actor Collin Chou was originally cast for an undisclosed lead role after Jet Li turned down an offer to appear in it, but Chou later left the role.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (November 2014)
The film received mixed reviews by critics, while some praised the revival of the martial arts genre, the movie still failed on originality. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 26% of 113 sampled critics gave the film positive reviews and that it got a rating average of 4.3 out of 10. The consensus reads "Overly serious and incomprehensibly edited, Ninja Assassin fails to live up to the promise of its title." At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 34% based on 20 reviews. While critics generally panned the film as a melange of gore scenes without a convincing plot, some critics commended the film's numerous action scenes.
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle described the film as "a gorefest, a borefest and a snorefest." Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opined that "this amateurish action flick is so lacking in personality or punch, it ought to be titled 'V for Video Store Discount Bin.'"
Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty wrote "...this slick slice of martial-arts mayhem from the producers of The Matrix is awash in blood. It spurts and sprays in geysers. And it never lets up. There's a brutal (and admittedly very cool) fight scene every five minutes... But let's be honest, killing is this film's business... and business is good."
Ninja Assassin opened at #6 at the North American box office earning $13,316,158 in its first opening weekend. The film grossed $60,462,347, of which $38,122,883 was from North America. In Japan, this film opened on the March 6, 2010 in only one movie theater in Shinjuku and then also opened on the March 20 in Osaka. Ninja Assassin earned 2,214,000 yen (Approximately $25,672 U.S.) during its first opening weekend in Shinjuku.
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