Isn't that a tautology—both ninja and assassin? Redundancy aside, having braved zombies in 28 Days Later, Naomie Harris now faces a centuries-old clan of ninjas who have been hiring themselves out, Blackwater-style, as government mercenaries. Sad to say, the undead were more fun. Eurocop Harris discovers the ninjas' secret role in black-ops history, so naturally they come after her—that's the entire plot. But one Bourne-like rogue ninja (South Korean pop star Rain) does try to protect her from the silent swarm of sword-wielding assassins. (Strict traditionalists, ninjas here appear incapable of driving, using guns or cell phones, or smiling.) Directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta), and with Joel Silver and the Wachowskis as producers, Ninja Assassin is a hard-R blood-fest with much CG and many severed limbs. Because, however, ninjas love the shadows and abhor the light, most of their battles are murky and difficult to follow. (Try to count the screams, arterial geysers, and fallen limbs, then do the math; the ninjas always win.) With a passable smirk, 300-style abs, and limited English, Rain has zero chemistry with Harris; indeed, they spend half the movie apart. (Interminable flashbacks to his early training are like a ninja Hogwarts, complete with magical powers and puppy love.) A triple-cross plot with Harris' superiors doesn't help the movie's clarity; nor does the clattering sound design. Shouldn't throwing stars be silent? If they're gonna sound like gunshots, why not just use guns?
Harris moves from zombie killin' to ninja battlin'.
Opens at Varsity and other theaters, Wed., Nov. 25. Rated R. 99 minutes.