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Movie Review

Ninjas are brutal. But maybe you’d be livid too if everyone thought you were a myth.

Raizo, however, will tell you just how real ninjas are. Kidnapped by evil Lord Ozunu when he was a child, he and many children like him were rigorously trained (read: tortured) to become Ninja Assassins by their new "father."

When Raizo’s young girlfriend, Kiriko, refuses to obey Ozunu’s violent orders and tries to escape the compound, Ozunu has her heart cut out of her chest. Soon after, young Raizo flees successfully—after slashing Ozunu’s face. Now, as an adult, he’s still on the lam with a hefty price on his head. He strives for two things: to gain revenge against Ozunu and his clan, and to protect others from their vicious reign of terror. They, in turn, want to punish his supposed insubordination.

When Europol agent Mika Coretti investigates decades of mysterious killings all over the world, her research leads her to suspect ninjas (as all detectives secretly do). This puts her in grave danger since Ozunu finds out about her work and attempts to have her killed by his minions. Multiple times.

Re-enter Raizo—there to defend her and civilization as we know it while bad guys’ heads (and arms and fingers and legs) roll off swords and throwing stars.

Positive Elements

Raizo has a heart of gold and repeatedly places himself in harm’s way to protect Kiriko and Mika. They, in turn, care for and protect Raizo. Mika does so even when it could cost her her life.

Spiritual Content

Lyrics mention listening to Buddha’s voice. Ninjas are referred to as demons, not humans. Raizo and Ozunu have both developed the ability to spontaneously heal themselves of injuries, and they can also disappear at will.

Destiny is spoken of several times. And everything is said to have a "heart"—even bonsai. Raizo claims that the first breath he’ll take after Ozunu’s death will be his first breath of life.

Sexual Content

Young Raizo and Kiriko gently kiss. One night as they sleep separately, a ninja-mind-magic "hug" of sorts lets the girl know that he cares for her. Raizo’s chiseled physique is shown close-up as he goes through martial arts exercises. As Mika steps out of a shower, her bare shoulders are exposed.

Violent Content

If I were to fast-forward the vicious violence in this 99-minute film, there would be about 20 minutes of movie left.

Within the first few minutes at least three men are graphically sliced in half by swords—a couple in slow motion with copious blood flow and "squishy" sound effects.

We see severed heads, hands and fingers falling down like rain. A knife penetrates a man’s bicep and comes out the other side. Countless people are shot repeatedly, bullets ripping up their bodies, often in slo-mo. A foot chase through traffic results in at least one person being hit by a car (but not gravely injured), and a violent car crash occurs in a getaway attempt.

As punishment, Ozunu slices Kiriko’s cheek from nose to ear with a knife. A female ninja is killed and thrown into a dryer. Later we see her bloody body parts tumbling around in the machine. Raizo slashes through Ozunu’s eye and face with a knife after he is asked to harm Kiriko. Later he kills the male peer who killed Kiriko and stabs Ozunu’s neck and chest as he kills him as well. (Cue a lot more blood.) Mika is also stabbed in chest, and she shoots several ninjas.

Before Raizo turns against Ozunu, the old man hires him as an assassin. While on the job, Raizo slams a man’s head into a toilet bowl so forcefully and repeatedly that both porcelain and flesh break up as the camera zooms in.

A torch is thrown into someone’s eye. Children are beaten with sticks and shown with large scars all over their often bloodied torsos. Preteen Raizo’s feet are beaten into a bloody pulp after he fails a ninja exercise. Ozunu uses ninja torture tactics to slip his hand into Raizo’s abdomen and manipulate his organs, causing the young man excruciating pain and nearly killing him.

Crude or Profane Language

The f-word gets screamed or exclaimed close to a dozen times. The s-word is lobbed more than a half-dozen times in English and once in German. God’s and Jesus’ names are abused a handful of times each. Other profanities include "a‑‑" and "d‑‑n."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Somebody drinks hard liquor straight from the bottle. Mika and Raizo smoke cigarettes to change their scent and throw off the bloodhound-like ninjas.

Other Negative Elements

Ozunu teaches his charges to feel no pity or weakness. In fact, he teaches them to feel nothing at all. In his economy, experiencing suffering is a character flaw.

We hear a man urinating in a bathroom scene. Despite his determination to protect Mika, Raizo is set up by other Europol agents and held in chains. A tattoo artist’s bloody work is shown close-up.


Before I saw this movie, a friend announced that her 5-year-old son had given her a balloon hat for her birthday and said, "This is for you, so you can be a big princess … or a ninja."

Once I stopped chuckling, I jokingly urged her to "be the ninja." I mean, they do look good in black, and who wouldn’t want to be able to disappear at will or scale buildings undetected? This is Spider-Man territory, right?

Wrong. After watching Ninja Assassin, boy do I wish I’d told her to be the princess.

As Lord Orzunu says repeatedly, "Weakness compels strength. Betrayal begets blood." I’d like to rephrase that: "Ninja Assassin compels poor acting, tedium and senseless, bloodthirsty revenge. Faithfulness to its genre likely begets poor taste and utter cognitive and ethical vacuity."

I’ll gladly admit that watching Ninja Assassin was a test of endurance for me. My continual thought was, Is it over? Is it over? Is it over? Please let it be over. This is ridiculous and destructive. It eventually was over. Now I just wish the genre to which it belongs—a genre that offers little to nothing in terms of character development, plot or acting—was over.

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Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

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Readability Age Range



Rain as Raizo, Ben Miles as Maslow, Naomie Harris as Mika, Sho Kosugi as Ozunu, Rick Yune as Takeshi; Anna Sawai as Kiriko


James McTeigue ( )


Warner Bros.



Record Label



In Theaters

November 25, 2009

On Video

March 16, 2010

Year Published



Meredith Whitmore

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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