Film: 2009: November: "Ninja Assassin"

One of the deadliest Ninja Assassins in the world

Opening Date: Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In this film, a rogue enlists the help of the Interpol agent whose life he saved to bring down the clan of hired killers who trained him as an assassin.

Cast: Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles, Sho Kosugi, Rick Yune. Action feature film.

Raizo is one of the deadliest assassins in the world. Taken from the streets as a child, he was transformed into a trained killer by the Ozunu Clan, a secret society whose very existence is considered a myth. But haunted by the merciless execution of his friend by the Clan, Raizo breaks free from them...and vanishes. Now he waits, preparing to exact his revenge.

In Berlin, Europol agent Mika Coretti has stumbled upon a money trail linking several political murders to an underground network of untraceable assassins from the Far East. Defying the orders of her superior, Ryan Maslow, Mika digs into top secret agency files to learn the truth behind the murders. Her investigation makes her a target, and the Ozunu Clan sends a team of killers, led by the lethal Takeshi, to silence her forever.

Raizo saves Mika from her attackers, but he knows that the Clan will not rest until they are both eliminated. Now, entangled in a deadly game of cat and mouse through the streets of Europe, Raizo and Mika must trust one another if they hope to survive...and finally bring down the elusive Ozunu Clan.

Photo above: RAIN as Raizo in Warner Bros. Pictures’, Legendary Pictures’ and Dark Castle Entertainment’s action film “Ninja Assassin,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Juliana Malucelli

Ninja Assassin Movie Trailer

Watch the Official "Ninja Assassin" movie trailer from Warner Brs. Pictures through Hulu. Click on the white triangle to start the movie.

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NAOMIE HARRIS as Mika and RAIN as Raizo in Warner Bros. Pictures’, Legendary Pictures’ and Dark Castle Entertainment’s action film “Ninja Assassin,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Juliana Malucelli.

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"Ninja Assassin" is directed by James McTeigue from a screenplay by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski. The film stars Korean pop star Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles, Rick Yune and legendary martial arts performer Sho Kosugi. Joel Silver, Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski and Grant Hill are the film's producers, with Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni and Steve Richards serving as executive producers.

The behind-the-scenes creative team includes director of photography Karl Walter Lindenlaub, production designer Graham "Grace" Walker, editor Gian Ganziano, editor Joseph Jett Sally, costume designer Carlo Poggioli and composer Ilan Eshkeri.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Legendary Pictures and Dark Castle Entertainment, a Silver Pictures Production in association with Anarchos Productions, "Ninja Assassin."

Opening nationwide on Wednesday, November 25, 2009, the film is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

The film has been rated R by the MPAA for strong bloody stylized violence throughout, and language.

Betrayal begets blood.
This is the law of the Nine Clans.
This is the way of the ninja.

They are the stuff of legend, but for their victims they are all too real. Their swords and shuriken fly fast and, in the blink of an eye, cut to the bone, creating a bloody spray in the wake of the blade. The masters of stealth and dealers of death, these specters strike without warning and strike fear in the hearts of their enemies. No one is safe. Ninjas are the special forces of the martial arts world, and director James McTeigue and producers Joel Silver, Andy and Larry Wachowski and Grant Hill wanted to bring them to the screen as never before.

States producer Silver, "We each felt that the pure martial arts film is a kind of a subgenre that hasn't really had its due in the U.S. We were always talking about doing something like taking the legend of the ninja, which dates back to the 14th century, and dropping this silent killer into a truly modern world."

The filmmakers wanted to utilize the classic ninja movie structure in which an enigmatic master schools select children to become unbelievable fighters or assassins, who people in the "real world" of the film believe to be a myth. That is, of course, until their two worlds intersect and the disbelievers witness these incredible martial artists in action.

"Ninjas were the shadowy characters who always came out of the darkness," says director McTeigue, who also recalls the influences of his upbringing in Australia. "We got anime from Japan and a lot of the TV serials as well, like 'The Samurai' and 'The Phantom Agents'--shows that had elements of the folkloric ninja in them, where the characters were raised in an orphanage or the like. For this film, we talked about those classic elements, but also adding an edgy film noir aspect to it."

"It's no secret that each of us, Larry and Andy in particular, has a strong affinity for Japanese storytelling and culture," offers producer Hill, "but how does the world of the ninja wrap itself around the 21st century?"

That became the job of screenwriters Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski, who were brought on board to pen the script.

"I trained in karate all through college, and the martial arts have been a big part of my life for a long time," says Sand. "So to get to write the kind of ninja movie I've always wanted to see was a dream come true."

"I've always loved the genre, but it seemed like no one had made a serious ninja movie in a long time, at least not in the West," notes Straczynski. "Ninjas have been used so often for comic relief that it felt as if no one was taking them seriously any longer. The chance to make a movie that presented ninjas as being scary as hell was very appealing," he smiles, "and working with the Wachowskis is always rewarding and intellectually daunting because they both have these 12-story brains and you really have to be on your toes to keep up with them."

The screenplay began to take shape. Says Sand, "It's an origin story. The orphanage--the idea of these ninjas being a family in a twisted, dark way--and one man, Raizo, coming to terms with a substitute father who was the most awful father imaginable. Where Raizo came from as a character is exactly what the ninja clans are all about. They made him. Motivated by a lost love, his reacting against them rather than becoming what they had in mind, along with the story of the agent investigating the clans, made it a different type of a ninja movie than we'd ever seen."

In order to be certain they could make the kind of film they all wanted to see, they had to find the perfect Raizo--someone who was not only able to take on the physical demands of the character's warrior side, but who could also be a believable leading man.

"The day that Rain did his first scene in 'Speed Racer,'" recalls Silver, "the Wachowski brothers called me and said, 'This guy is unbelievable. He's a natural. He is our dream come true.' And we began to plan 'Ninja Assassin' immediately."

McTeigue says, "Even though it was a relatively small role, Rain's physical ability was so good that we thought if we could do an all-out ninja movie, he would be the one to do it with."

"When we were working on that film, Larry and Andy approached me and asked if I would be interested in being a ninja," remembers Rain. "How could I say no to that? I told them, 'Tell me when and where and I'll be there.'"

Although Rain plays Raizo, the central role, the filmmakers knew that the real star of "Ninja Assassin" would be the stunning martial arts sequences, and to accomplish them they'd need the best. They called in legendary stunt choreographers Chad Stahelski and Dave Leitch--who've worked with the Wachowskis, Silver and Hill since "The Matrix" days and who got their start as stunt coordinators on McTeigue's "V for Vendetta"--to help devise a style of fighting that would speak to the kind of movie they wanted to make.

"For this film, we didn't want to rely on wire work, camera tricks or visual effects," states Silver. "We wanted the verisimilitude of seeing and believing what's happening right in front of you. Chad and Dave thought outside the box and wanted to bring in the best in the business--parkour and free runners, acrobats, and guys from Jackie Chan's stunt team. They all worked together to deliver unbelievable stunt sequences above and beyond what we imagined."

Wherever you are, wherever you may go,
you must never forget who you are, how you came to be.
You are Ozunu. You are a part of me as I am a part of you.

The character of Raizo, played by Rain, is brought as a child to the orphanage run by Lord Ozunu, who heads the Ozunu Clan. There Raizo is trained to be a heartless assassin, but he also finds someone to give his heart to, Kiriko, another young trainee. Her terrible fate, however, seals Raizo's as well and he rejects the clan, making it his life's mission to try and stop them. Raizo's main objective is to trace his way back to the secret location of the Ozunu clan's orphanage and to make sure that no more children are kidnapped, brutalized and turned into assassins. At the same, time he must prevent them from killing him as well.

Says Silver, "Raizo is so genuine, he is really trying to rise above the hand that was dealt him, to reject the monster who trained him, and become a better person than he was taught to be."

"Raizo is a great assassin, one of the best students Lord Ozunu has ever had," says Rain. "But the bloodshed gets to him, and he has to escape. But you can never leave openly. And by leaving, he must betray Ozunu, who will then stop at nothing to destroy Raizo. So Raizo leads a quiet, anonymous life...knowing that one day, Ozunu will find him."

The role of Raizo called for an actor with a special intensity, who could convey a lot of emotion in a very subtle way.

"Rain is smart and instinctive and incredibly dedicated," says McTeigue. "He was a joy to work with."

Silver adds, "Rain really is a magnetic personality. You can't take your eyes off of him, he commands the screen."

Operating in the outside world, Raizo must stay one step ahead of the clan. But the murders are being investigated, and one researcher at Europol stumbles onto the notion of the nine ancient clans that have trained assassins--ninjas--to perform murders for a fee: the price of a pound of gold. But she is getting too close, and she is now marked for death by the Ozunu clan. Raizo saves her life, and they are forced to go on the run together.

Naomie Harris plays agent Mika Coretti. "I just loved the character and felt a real connection with Mika," relates Harris. "She is different from any character I've played before. I really liked her passion and enthusiasm, and that she believes anything is possible, which is what I always believed as well. Like the fantastical is possible."

"Naomie absolutely got what we were trying to do," says McTeigue. "The character of Mika is really strong and Naomie saw that and completely took her on."

"Mika's investigating this bizarre myth, this legend, this rumor," says Sand. "Her obsession leads her into terrifying danger, but also leads her to the truth."

"Mika's work is really her entire life," says Harris. "So when she finds something, she is like a dog with a bone. She doesn't let go of it until she's worked everything out. She likes putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. She's found a lot of evidence to prove that ninjas exist, and she's not letting it go."

Mika's initial challenge is convincing her boss, Ryan Maslow, that she's onto something real. British actor Ben Miles, who plays the skeptical agent, says, "I play a kind of hardened cop. One of his young researchers, Mika, comes to him with a seemingly harebrained scheme about ninjas assassinating people now, in the 21st century. He tells her that she can't seriously think that some guys dressed in black with swords are going around knocking off these high-profile political figures. But Maslow doesn't always do things by the book; he has a bit of a maverick approach and may have his own plans, so he lets her go with it, and the movie takes on this suspenseful layer upon layer of who you can trust, who you can't trust, whose side should you be on. It's a great kind of clash of thriller, film noir and martial arts."

Miles, who first worked with McTeigue and the producers on "V for Vendetta," enjoyed working with his old friends again. "They have this verve and enthusiasm and a kind of unpredictability, so it was great fun on many levels. Plus getting to do all the action stuff, you can't beat it."

Through Mika's research, she helps Raizo find his way back to the source: the orphanage and his original master, Lord Ozunu. Legendary martial artist and famed ninja movie veteran Sho Kosugi--who has participated in more than 300 tournaments and numerous films, including five previous ninja movies--took on the role, which thrilled the filmmakers.

"If you've ever watched any ninja films from the 1980s, you know that Sho Kosugi is the ninja; he is the man," asserts McTeigue. "He was the only person who could impart the discipline of Lord Ozunu. He embodied the clan master." Of course, the actor was nothing like the character he played. "Every time he had to do something mean or aggressive, he did it, but as soon as I called 'Cut,' he'd say, 'Oh my gosh, he's a very bad man, that clan master!' And he'd start laughing and smiling."

Although he was playing a bad guy, Kosugi--who has studied martial arts since the age of five and who still practices about three hours daily--truly appreciated the thought that went into creating his character. "I was shocked when I saw the script, when I saw the name Ozunu, I smiled because what most people don't know is there was a real Ozunu, who was born in the Kinki District and is the ancestor of the Shugenja, mountain warriors who practiced Shugendo. He's an ancestor of the ninjutsu. So the research was so good. To play this role, I was honored to do that."

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