Producers Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers prop up the latest offering from Matrix second-unit director James McTeigue (V For Vendetta). This tale of a young orphan (Rain) trained in a physically and psychologically brutal manner and then betrayed by a secret society of assassins seems like another empty search for the next One (big box-office hit). Assassins has none of the literary underpinnings of Alan Moore’s Vendetta, which sets it up to be little more than a martial arts genre exercise. But there’s still the potential for much fun to be had.
Unfortunately, the movie lacks the guts to be a true B-movie classic: familiar faces in the lead (for instance, Burt Reynolds or James Woods) who are there as little more than paycheck bottom feeders; gratuitous sex (or at least a few T&A shots) to go along with the over the top violence; and throwaway catch-phrases to drive the point home after particularly delicious kills.
Naomi Harris, as perhaps the most recognizable name for Western audiences, isn’t given as much meat in her character to work with as she was in 28 Days Later, her breakout turn from a few years ago. She’s got the chops and moxie to play a tough and capable female lead, and she could have packed a powerful complementary punch here, but she’s an example of just another blank in the chamber. In other words, Ninja Assassins fails to truly slay audiences. Grade: D