PictureNinja Assassin comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Warner Home Video with a 1080p resolution, encoded using the VC-1 codec and framed within a theatrically correct 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The disc is region free.
If the film itself was less than praise worthy, the picture is the complete opposite, being a joy to behold. Proceedings remain pin sharp and rarely, if ever, drop below these high standards. When there is a slight, and I have to emphasise the word slight, lowering of delineation it is fairly evident that it is nothing more than the original focus (or miniscule lack of it), not the fault of the transfer. As is usually the case, items in the foreground have a greater clarity, but even in low light and with wide shots there is excellent delineation to objects.
Detail remains similarly high throughout, with the lack of light utilised for the more dramatic set-pieces not hindering the visuals. Where there is a loss of detail, it is down to an intentional blanking out of parts of the screen in a bid for starkness. Speaking of which, the contrast is strong which helps the image take on a level of dimensionality that aids the action sequences excellently.
Colours are often restrained, but as one would expect of an action flick, the primary that is allowed to thrive is red. Blood sprays are deep and appear thick, with a vivid hue to them. Skin tones, considering the palette and lighting is built around black, white and Asian actors all often within the same frame, hold true for the most part, but the slight yellow tinge that is inherent in the image does occasionally skew things slightly. Given the gradations between foreground and background and the lighting being of a subtle nature, banding could have been an issue, but I'm pleased to say there is no hint of it. There were a couple of very minor moments of blooming, but these were certainly the exception rather than the rule. This is a fine transfer that has but a few very minor flaws.
SoundThere are multiple language options for this film, but I opted to focus on the only lossless track - English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 for the sake of this review.
As with the feature, the audio mix comes alive when action becomes the order of the day - bombastic is the word to describe the ensuing aural assault. As soon as an action sequence is triggered, the music starts pumping with great ferocity, the bass in particular being notable. Weapons cut through the air with sound effects that encompass the listener and the continual chinking of metal and whooshes of near misses emanate from all angles. It can at times be a little front heavy, but the surround usage is well placed and utilised to significant effect when necessary.
As mentioned, the standout feature of this mix is the way in which the lower frequencies are handled. The reverberation from drums creates a palpable pressure in the room and when gunfire arrives it rips through all other sounds with imperious authority. The beauty lies in how clean the bass remains, with even the most hectic scenes, complete with over-layered music and sounds effects, staying tight and concise.
Dialogue never suffers from this carnage, though the centre speaker might seem slightly pushed into the room for some, it never feels awkward or imposing. Speech is natural, but those listening at lower volumes may find a couple of instance of dipped levels which is perhaps why it has been heightened slightly against the fronts. The sum total is a mix that encompasses directionality where called upon, strong, clean low frequencies and clear dialogue. For those listening at reference levels this will prove an absolute blast.
ExtrasThe myth and legend of ninjas - 1080p - 18:56
Various “ninja masters” discuss the history and practice of ninjitsu. The mystique of this potentially decent feature is blown however by the fact that those interviewed include only middle aged white Americans, an old Japanese master who seems to be wearing Noel Edmonds' jumper and two eight stone weakling comic book nerds one of whom seems to be seeking some kind of racial assurance in such Eastern mythology. There are a few titbits about the history and evolution of the art, but for the most part those speaking come across as a group of individuals who have too much time on their hands and like playing in pyjamas or stating how “cool” ninjas are. Had the interviewing time been devoted to the genuine Japanese master instead of the peripheral cast this could have been quite interesting.
The extreme sport of the ninjas - 1080p - 10:07
A short piece about the assembled cast of stunt men used for the filming of the action sequences. Those involved included free runners, acrobats and martial artists and for all those interested there is a healthy amount of behind-the-scenes footage of the practising of the stunts.
Training Rain - 1080p - 9:52
Much as the previous feature, but with the emphasis being solely upon the South Korean singing superstar. He trained for six hours a day for a total of six months to get into shape for the part and the results are evident from the footage here.
Deleted scenes - 1080p - 7:43
A few deleted and extended scenes, most of which is filler but there are a couple of instances that would genuinely have helped the threadbare plot.
VerdictNinja Assassin is an action film for those who don't wish to place any emphasis on storyline beyond the essence of the premise. An incredibly simplistic tale of revenge that doesn't attempt to surround itself with too much that might fetter its ability to jump into the next fight sequence with great expediency. The bloodshed is brutal, and this may be enough for some, but others will see it as falling between the knowing kitsch value of true B-movie fare and more structured, satisfying material.
The disc shows off the charms of the film as best it can, with a picture and sound quality that actually enhances the experience thanks to its striking nature. Extras are thin in substance but will pass a little time for those keen to see some behind-the-scenes footage and hear a few anecdotes about ninjitsu.
This may yet prove to be a guilty pleasure for some, especially at the right price point, but expectations must be set at a suitably low mark to start with.
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