(In theatres, December 2009) I can imagine the arguments that got this movie green-lit: “Every kid loves pirates, cowboys and ninjas! Disney owns pirates and westerns never make any money, so let’s go for ninjas!” That, along with an unshakeable desire to recycle decades of ninja-movie clichés may be what brought Ninja Assassin to the big screens, and the result feels as familiar and redundant as the film’s title. Devoted to reviving the mystique of the ninja (even imbuing them with slightly-supernatural abilities), this film has plenty of dull dialogue and very few surprises in showcasing all the permutations that fans could ask for: Ninja-vs-criminals, ninja-vs-SWAT-team and the ever-popular ninja-vs-ninja. And yet, two things make the film stand out: First, the unnecessary amount of gore sprayed everywhere: People aren’t just cut or sliced in this film as much as they’re decapitated, dismembered and cleaved in halves. Second, though, is the general competence in which the film achieves its own objectives: As far as a B-grade action films about ninjas are concerned, Ninja Assassin is pretty much what it wants to be. Add to that Naomi Harris (whom I’d watch in just about everything), overblown CGI effects, the obligatory climax set on a burning set, a fine performance by Korean pop-singer Rain (in a Hollywood environment not known for lead roles for Asian actors) and director James McTeigue’s film is quite a bit better than the low expectations set by the boring trailer. I didn’t like Ninja Assassin all that much, but it works in some clunky fashion, and I wasn’t bored for long. For a film that indulges into two of my least-favourite action scene clichés (namely; dimly-lit sets and frantic over-cutting), that’s about as much praise as I can give.