The Ozunu Clan, led by the ruthless Lord Ozunu (Sho Kosugi), trains orphans from around the world to become the ultimate ninja assassins. One of these orphans, Raizo (Rain), was forced to train as an assassin for the clan. The training was both brutal and hard especially for him because he was to be the next successor of the clan.
The only kindness he was ever shown was from a young kunoichi named Kiriko, with whom he eventually develops a romantic bond. As time goes on, Kiriko becomes disenchanted with the Ozunu's routine and wishes to abandon it for freedom. One rainy night, Kiriko decides to make her escape and encourages Raizo to join her; however he decides to stay. Branded as a traitor, Kiriko was caught and later executed in front of Raizo by their elder ninja brother Takeshi, impaling her through the heart.
As a result of Kiriko's death, Raizo begins to harbor resentment and doubt towards the Ozunu. Kiriko's death opens his eyes and he begins to see faults within the clan and sees that what he's been taught to do wasn't right. Some time later, Raizo is instructed by Lord Ozunu to complete his first assassination. Afterwards, Raizo meets the rest of his clan atop a city skyscraper in Berlin. There he is instructed by Lord Ozunu to execute another kunoichi traitor like Kiriko. Upon remembering Kiriko's death and finally having had enough, Raizo cracks. He rebels against Lord Ozunu by cutting his face with a kyoketsu-shoge and engages in combat against his fellow ninja kin. Barely surviving, he falls off the roof of the skyscraper and into a river. For the years that are to come, Raizo recovers and trains on his own to intervene and foil all of Ozunu's assassination attempts in hopes of bringing down the clan that took everything from him.
Meanwhile, Europol agent Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) has been investigating money-linked political murders and finds out that they are possibly connected to the Ozunu. She defies her superior, Ryan Maslow (Ben Miles), and retrieves secret agency files to find out more about the investigation. Mika meets Raizo and convinces him to see Maslow for protection as well as to provide evidence against the Ozunu. However, Raizo is arrested by Maslow and abducted by agents from Europol for interrogation.
Although feeling betrayed, Mika is assured by Maslow that he is still on her side and gives her a tracking device for emergencies. The Ozunu ninja infiltrate the Europol safehouse where Raizo is being held in an attempt to kill him and everybody inside. Mika frees Raizo and they both manage to escape, but Raizo suffers near-fatal wounds. Mika then takes him to a motel to hide. Resting in the motel, Mika implants the tracking device into Raizo, as the ninjas remain in pursuit. Unable to fend off the Ozunu, she hides outside the motel until Special Forces arrive to help her.
By the time they arrive, the ninjas have already kidnapped Raizo, bringing him before Lord Ozunu for prosecution. During transport back to the Ozunu, Raizo uses his ninja techniques to heal his own wounds. Europol special forces and tactical teams led by Maslow storm the secluded Ozunu retreat (nestled in the mountains) using the tracking device on Raizo.
Turning the night into day by saturating the sky above with powerful flares, the military forces are able to fight the ninjas on their own terms. In the confusion, Mika frees Raizo from his bindings, where he proceeds to kill Takeshi and confront Lord Ozunu in a sword duel. Mika interferes to help, but is stabbed by Lord Ozunu. Enraged, Raizo uses a 'shadow blending' technique for the first time to distract and kill Lord Ozunu. Mika, seemingly fatally wounded, is in fact saved by a quirk of birth: her heart is actually on the opposite side of her chest. After Europol leaves, Raizo stays behind to tend to the ruins of the Ozunu retreat. He later climbs the same wall Kiriko did while trying to escape in the past, and looks out at the surrounding countryside, recognizing his freedom for the first time.
StarringRain as Raizo
Naomie Harris as Mika Coretti
Ben Miles as Ryan Maslow
Rick Yune as Takeshi
Sho Kosugi as Lord Ozunu
Randall Duk Kim as Tattoo Master
Sung Kang as Hollywood
Rest Of Cast In Order Of AppearanceJonathan Chan-Pensley as Yakuza Henchman
Ill-Young Kim as Yakuza Mohawk
Yuki Iwamoto as Yakuza Couch
Linh-Dan Pham as Pretty Ninja
Yu Fang as Laundromat Manager
Adriana Altaras as Landlady
Kylie Liya Goldstein as Young Kiriko
Sungwoong Yoon as Young Raizo
Eleonore Weisgerber as Mrs. Sabatin
Wladimir Tarasjanz as Aleksei Sabatin
Lee Joon as Teenage Raizo
Kai Fung Rieck as Teenage Takeshi
Anna Sawai as Teenage Kiriko
Thorston Manderlay as Agent Zabranski
Richard Van Weyden as Ibn Battuta
Mina Ghousi as Kid with Envelope
Hans Hohlbein as Mika's Neighbor
Stephen Marcus as Kingpin
Nhi Ngoc Nguyen-Hermann as Girl on Roof
Guido Föhrweisser as Lead Europol Agent
Tim Williams as Europol Cell Guard
David Leitch as Europol Door Guard
Wolfgang Stegemann as Europol Pointman
Steffen Groth as Europol Guard
Jens Neuhaus as Europol Guard
Patrick Pinheiro as Maslow's Aide
Matthias Schendel as Task Force Agent
Johannes Ahn as Medic
Ninja Assassin was directed by James McTeigue, who had previously worked with producers The Wachowskis and Joel Silver on V for Vendetta four years prior. The Wachowskis were inspired to make the film by actor Rain's impressive ninja-based fight scenes in their 2008 film Speed Racer. The initial screenplay was written by Matthew Sand, and was rewritten by J. Michael Straczynski only six weeks prior to filming due to the Wachowskis' initial dissatisfaction. Actor Sho Kosugi had previously played ninjas several times in the 1980s, and had become somewhat of a cult icon, hence is role as the antagonist Lord Ozunu, named after En no Ozunu, a 7th-century Japanese mystic and one of the developers of ninjutsu.
Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg provided filmmakers US$1 million in funding, and Germany's Federal Film Fund provided an additional US$9 million to the film's funding.
Principal photography began in Berlin, Germany at the end of April 2008. Filming took place in Babelsberg Studios and on location throughout Berlin.
McTeigue cited various influences in filming Ninja Assassin such as the films Panic in the Streets (1950), The Getaway (1972), Badlands (1973), Ninja Scroll (1993), and the anime Samurai Champloo (2004–2005). Actor Collin Chou was originally cast for an undisclosed lead role after Jet Li turned down an offer to appear in it, but Chou later left the role.
On November 5, 2009, Warner Bros. Entertainment released the video game application based on the film for the iPhone.
The film was not well received by critics, while some praised the revival of the martial arts genre, the movie still failed on originality. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 26% of 113 sampled critics gave the film positive reviews and that it got a rating average of 4.3 out of 10. The consensus reads "Overly serious and incomprehensibly edited, Ninja Assassin fails to live up to the promise of its title." At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 34% based on 20 reviews. While critics generally panned the film as a melange of gore scenes without a convincing plot, some critics commended the film's numerous action scenes.
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle described the film as "a gorefest, a borefest and a snorefest." Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opined that "this amateurish action flick is so lacking in personality or punch, it ought to be titled 'V for Video Store Discount Bin.'"
Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty wrote "...this slick slice of martial-arts mayhem from the producers of The Matrix is awash in blood. It spurts and sprays in geysers. And it never lets up. There's a brutal (and admittedly very cool) fight scene every five minutes... But let's be honest, killing is this film's business... and business is good."
Ninja Assassin opened at #6 at the North American box office earning $13,316,158 in its first opening weekend. The film grossed $60,462,347, of which $38,122,883 was from North America. In Japan, this film opened on the March 6, 2010 in only one movie theater in Shinjuku and then also opened on the March 20 in Osaka. Ninja Assassin earned 2,214,000 yen (Approximately $25,672 U.S.) during its first opening weekend in Shinjuku.
On June 9, 2010, Rain was awarded the "Biggest Badass" award on the MTV Movie Awards for his work in Ninja Assassin.
Ninja Assassin was released on DVD, Online Streaming and Blu-ray Disc formats on March 16, 2010.