Scrolling Headlines:

Trio of second period goals leads Maine to 3-1 win over UMass hockey -

January 16, 2018

Small-ball lineup sparks UMass men’s basketball comeback over Saint Joseph’s -

January 14, 2018

UMass men’s basketball tops St. Joe’s in wild comeback -

January 14, 2018

UMass women’s track and field have record day at Beantown Challenge -

January 14, 2018

UMass women’s basketball blows halftime lead to Saint Joseph’s, fall to the Hawks 84-79. -

January 14, 2018

UMass hockey beats Vermont 6-3 in courageous win -

January 13, 2018

Makar, Leonard score but UMass can only muster 2-2 tie with Vermont -

January 13, 2018

Pipkins breaks UMass single game scoring record in comeback win over La Salle -

January 10, 2018

Conservative student activism group sues UMass over free speech policy -

January 10, 2018

Report: Makar declines invite from Team Canada Olympic team -

January 10, 2018

Prince Hall flood over winter break -

January 10, 2018

Minutemen look to avoid three straight losses with pair against Vermont -

January 10, 2018

Men’s and women’s track and field open seasons at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2018

Turnovers and poor shooting hurt UMass women’s basketball in another conference loss at St. Bonaventure -

January 8, 2018

Shorthanded, UMass men’s basketball shocks Dayton with 62-60 win -

January 7, 2018

Northampton City Council elects Ryan O’Donnell as new council president -

January 7, 2018

UMass power play stays hot but Minutemen lose 8-3 to UMass Lowell -

January 7, 2018

UMass hockey falls to UMass Lowell in 8-3 blowout -

January 7, 2018

UMass hockey falls short against Yale in 5-3 loss Friday -

January 5, 2018

Otis Livingston II, George Mason drop UMass men’s basketball 80-72 -

January 3, 2018

Ninja Action Hits the Big Screen

For over a millennium, the nine clans of the ninja have existed in secrecy. Living in the shadows, these powerful families have disciplined their stealthy warriors in the deadly arts and preyed on the weak as the world’s most elite assassins. They live without pain or fear, move without making a sound and kill without leaving a trace.

In the Wachowski brothers’ new film “Ninja Assassin,” the secret world of the silent killers is brought to the light of day, and what ensues is stylized cinematic brilliance.

The plot of “Ninja Assassin” is simple: An innocent Europol agent named Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) digs a bit too deep into a series of political killings, and finds herself the target of the deadly Onuzu clan. While the clan may be after her, rogue ninja Raizo is after them, and the unlikely pair team up to pursue their mutual goals.

The old formula of the “killer with a conscience” has been worn out over the years, but the execution is fresh and effective. The first hour of the film is interspersed with flashbacks, telling the story of how Raizo parted ways with the society of assassins and began his vendetta, and this method works naturally into the story at large.

While it is well executed, the plot is predictable and not very impressive. That’s not exactly the point, though, now is it? Unlike previous collaborations between director James McTeigue and the Wachowskis, which include “V for Vendetta” and the “Matrix” trilogy, “Ninja Assassin” doesn’t supply any literary themes or social commentary. While just as stylish as its peers, this latest film relies less on plot and more on bloody violence.

The second half of the movie more or less eschews character development, diving head-first into the ninja-on-ninja action. Korean pop star Rain is cool as ice in the lead role of Raizo, displaying impressive martial prowess in his Hollywood debut. Despite the obvious use of special effects and CGI, his athletic ability cannot be ignored, and this is not likely to be the last time we see the performer on the big screen.

Combat sequences range from over-the-top Kill Bill-style bloodbaths to intense encounters between top killers. While the best of the stylized action is a cross between “Enter the Dragon” and “300,” it verges on gimmicky when mysterious ninja abilities are demonstrated without explanation. It seems at times that the film doesn’t know whether it wants to be a realistic kung-fu matchup or a Naruto-esque magical ninja romp.

One rule that is certainly followed throughout the film is the Inverse Ninja Law, wherein the more ninjas the protagonist faces at any given time, the easier each individual ninja is to kill. As the movie progresses, the body count ratchets up significantly, with wave after wave of opponents falling under the stylized wrath of Raizo’s chain-blade.

Inconsistencies aside, the action in “Ninja Assassin” is heart-pounding. It starts off with gallons of blood and ends much the same way, with the intervening plot serving only as motive for the ever-escalating violence.

First and foremost, this film must be recognized for what it is: a flashy kung-fu flick. Those who are looking for the next sweeping drama this Oscar season would be well advised to go for something starring Viggo Mortensen or De Niro. But judged on its own merits of style and action, this tale of violence and espionage is one of the best of the year.

Andrew Sheridan can be reached at asher1@student.umass.edu.

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