(R for strong, bloody violence & profanity): Violence & profanity! In the first five minutes at least half a dozen people's heads, arms & legs are scattered around as blood by the bucket sprays the set, while seven f-words & 2 sh-words explod gratuitously at high volume. Even as the expletives lessened the blood continued to flow torrentially.
The film consists of three parts: The plotline in the present time in Berlin reveals the Ninja - "a demon sent from hell" - now an outcast from the mysterious, dangerous Ozunu Clan - fearful for his life; he simultaneously involves himself in a cat & mouse game with a political murder & intrigue case - most specifically with one woman working on the case. Second are the flashbacks that are intercut with the present, enabling us to understand the Ninja's painful rise from street kid to super assassin. And, third, also liberally intercut, are the blood baths complete with screams, pulsating music, and a plethora of body parts scattered everywhere as blood, sweat & agonizing cries permeate, particularly during the over-long final half hour.
Combining all three is confusing, to say the least. At the same time pace, generally so rapid between cuts, doesn't help comprehension. If the pace slows enough to irritate - just wait, there's always more mayhem right around the bend; editors Gian Ganziano & Joseph Jett guarantee it.
James McTeigue directs expansively from the script by Matthew Sand & J.Michael Straczynski (based on a story by Sand) as if he were creating another "Apocolypse Now" - with help from Karl Walter Lindenlaub's stark, moody lighting, exotic location shots & intense close-ups. Among a generally adequate cast, Rain stands out for his expertise in kung-fu - fully demonstrated throughout the 99-minutes it takes to run the film.
As with all such action flicks, the subject matter is unendingly taut, the suspense high, and the special effects equally so. The production team, despite the mundane dialog ("Everything has a heart." "I don't."), actually treats the plot seriously - same for the cast - raising it to a slightly higher standard than other run-of-the-mill versions. (Grade: B-)