Ninja Assassin (2009) 
Blu-ray Martial Arts
Written by Noah Fleming   
Tuesday, 16 March 2010

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It's been awhile since I've indulged in a martial arts, action flick.  While "Ninja Assassin" is not perfect by any means, it may surprise you.  While it certainly won't be for everyone, it is strong for what it is.  There is some surprisingly good acting and the martial arts sequences are better than usual.

I'll have to criticize the film for the gore, but thankfully it doesn't take center stage as in other films.  When the film opened I thought I was going to shut this film off early, but it progressed nicely.

The plot is nothing elaborate and moves at a rather slow pace.  However, the action sequences get the film moving along.  Raizo, played by pop star Rain, is a lethal killing machine.  He was raised by a Japanese clan, which turned orphans into assassins.  The clans have been hired throughout history by governments to assassinate individuals.

When a couple from a European government agency begins secretly looking into the assassination clan, trouble begins to surround them.  In particular, Mika (Naomie Harris) is on the run, trying to stay alive and help her newfound friend.

For being a pop star, Rain does a tremendous and convincing job.  However, the star of the film happens to be Naomie Harris.  She is most well known for her role in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.  She provides the contrast to an otherwise dark film.  Her presence lights up the screen.  Whenever she disappears you long for her to come back.

The martial arts sequences come second but are no slouch.  For a low-budget film, the martial arts are stunning.  Ninjas fly in and out of the shots in a somewhat "superman" fashion.  While a lot of the detail is lost in the darkness, there is still plenty of action to see.

Be forewarned that this is a dark-looking film.  However, the Blu-ray transfer provides for a pleasant viewing experience.  All the defining characteristics of a Blu-ray are present here.  The details and textures remain strong throughout, even with the swallowing darkness and original source noise.  Thankfully Warner has not employed any noise reduction and source artifacting and aliasing is also absent.  There is only the occasional instance of black crush.  For the most part, the blacks remain inky.  The contrast and brightness levels are nicely balanced.  Colors are limited due to the original intentions.  However, the reds for the blood are strong.  The greens of the nature surroundings are lush and evenly saturated.  Fleshtones remain natural and consistent.  While CG effects are easily noticeable, the transfer is technically proficient and will please film fans.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and is just as strong as the video.  The audio is immersive throughout, but not entirely consistent.  There are instances in which the soundscape misses a beat.  The audio track is a beat rough when the film starts out.  It seems like the sound mixers were working out how to balance the film.  The dialogue is unstable and unbalanced at the beginning, but smoothes out after the first 15 minutes or so.  Balance is also offer between dialogue and sound effects.  While immersion is terrific, the directionality and panning of the sound effects can sometimes go awry.  In a production like this with so much commotion in one sequence that the sound will miss a few beats here and there.  The LFE channel is powerful.  For the first time I could feel the base of my couch vibrate and rattle.  There are some underlying EQ issues with the bass, but it is certainly going to rock your experience of this film.

The Blu-ray comes with a brief supplemental package.  There is no word from the Wachowski brothers or the director.  Basic the special features highlight the stunts.  "The Myth and the Legend of Ninjas" is a nicely informative featurette on the history of ninjas.  "The Extreme Sport of a Ninja" is a standard promotional featurette.  "Training Rain" goes behind the scenes with the pop star and his six months of martial arts training.  Lastly, there are for deleted scenes.  The disc is BD-Live enabled and the package comes with a second disc that functions as a DVD Copy and a Digital Copy.

"Ninja Assassin" is not for everyone, but it certainly bests the typical blockbuster action flicks.  The story is simply and recycled, but the martial arts sequences and Naomie Harris make up for that.  The audio and video qualities are terrific, but have some faults.  I recommend this title for most and is probably worth a rent for others.
Studio Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating R
Starring Rain, Naomie Harris, Sung Kang, Kylie Goldstein, Yoon Sungwoong, Stephen Marcus, Ben Miles
Director James McTeigue
Film Release Year 2009
Release Year 2010
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 1080i (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
Running Time 1 hr. 39 mins.
Sound Formats English DTS-HD Master 5.1 • French Dolby Digital 5.1 • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles English SDH • French • Spanish
Special Features "The Myth and Legend of Ninjas"; "The Extreme Sport of a Ninja"; "Training Rain"; Deleted Scenes; BD-Live; DVD Copy; Digital Copy
Forum Link
Reviewer Noah Fleming

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