And the Academy Award for Best Picture goes to … Ninja Assassin!

I’m teasing.

It’s not so much that it’s bad, it’s more that it’s so astonishingly bad that it almost double backs on itself and becomes good. Almost.

Within the first three minutes, an incidental character reveals that they only survived a previous ninja attack because, by some fluke, their heart is on the right-hand side of their body. A minute later and someone standing next to him gets the top half of his head sliced off.

This, perhaps unsurprisingly, sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Plot, common sense, empathy and a respect for storytelling all manage to squeeze themselves into the back seat while one set-piece of elaborate, blood-plumed, choreographed slice and dice after another drives proceedings.

I could have forgiven it its shortcomings had it had a sense of self-awareness. I could have forgiven the continuity problems. Sadly, though, it all takes itself far too seriously because while swords and stars are slicing through human bodies as though they’re warm knives through ripened butter, there’s no (intentional) humour from the characters about any of the mindblowingly stupid events that are unravelling, the fight sequences are so quickly edited it’s impossible to follow who’s chopping up whom and by midway through the second sequence, we no longer care and instead of managing to generate some good old fashioned shock, the CGI blood washed over me like cranberry.

After an hour, I realised my face hadn’t moved. My eyebrows hadn’t been coaxed by surprise or shock and the corners of my mouth hadn’t been tickled into a grin. And because my entire body had been numbed by the experience, I hadn’t even been shifting about in my seat. It all just happened. And it was just my luck that it continued happening for another thirty minutes.

And I know, I know. It’s called Ninja Assassin and on its opening weekend, it’s showing in the smallest screen available. Did I expect Apocalypse Now with throwing stars?

Well, to be honest, I didn’t expect a whole lot, but words like hockum were invented to describe what this movie could have been. Bruce Lee films weren’t exactly masterclasses in acting. Kill Bill Vol 1 was just as elaborate in terms of choreography. But these had a respect for the genre and I think that’s what was really missing here.

The real problem was that director James McTeigue thought all he needed to do was throw a tonne of computer generated slaughter, some quasi-mystical dialogue and “ninja” noises at the screen and the result would kick as much ass as Messrs Lee and Thurman testing out their new ass-kicking boots. But it didn’t. It just made a mess.

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