In a country as restrictive as Singapore, censorship (mainly executed by the government) has always been a vital part throughout all known forms of media, at all times in its history. Besides the constant supervision of print, broadcast, and internet media (which is common in other Asian countries, too) through its Media Development Authority (short MDA), the in 1981 newly developed Singapore Films Act enables the film censorship committee - called Board of Film Censors (short BFC) - to ban films due to moral, political, religious, and/or integration issues. Based on that, other explicit content of sex (hardcore with no exceptions) and violence can be banned. Singapore's government usually justifies these actions by referring to the extremely conservative population which consists of many different races and religions. As they all have to live together in small spaces, they are not to be 'brought to a dangerous imbalance by provoking and/or political films'.
In fact, there are Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, and several other religions living next to each other in Singapore, and you don't seldom see churches and temples coexisting peacefully in one street. But what's looking achieved so easily is a minute conglomerate of restrictive rules of all day life which define and govern issues of tidiness, politeness, and much more. Further, they define the respective severe punishment when one should break the rules, which can culminate – besides exorbitant fines – in corporal or, in the worst case, capital punishment (the latter mainly for narcotics related felonies). Critics however assume that this censorship is mainly executed to suit the needs of the governing party and that the guidelines for bans are much to vague in their definitions.
The first introduction of a film rating system which was comparable to those of other countries came in Singapore in 1991. The highest rating at the time happened to be an R(A) rating which allowed people from the age of 18 to watch movies containing adult material. Later on, due to a high number of complaints from the population, the respective rating was raised to (!) 21 years and the R21 rating was introduced. By this rating, it is by now possible to show almost every main Hollywood movie in Singapore – however often only after mandatory cuts were made. In the old times, the BFC was censoring by itself. At the end of 2005, the system became newly structured. Since then, the production company suggests one of the existing ratings for their movie. The BFC either agrees to that or decides on a higher rating for the movie as it is, which the production company have to accept – or to 'edit certain content' in order to receive the desired rating. THAT might seem oddly familiar to the attentive reader; this rating practice seems quite similar to that of the MPAA in the US: your films don't get censored, but you censor them yourself. However, the main difference is that the BFC is a federal institution, so the presentation of movie content doesn't happen on a voluntary but mandatory basis.
Be that as it may, one of the many rules of the censorship institution states that movies with a R21 rating are excluded from a home cinema release. That's why the BFC is often using this exact rating for movies with 'inconvenient' content of all kinds – knowing that the production company is likely to cut their movie to suit the needs for the lower M18 rating (which, during the restructuring efforts in 2005, was introduced as a 'softened' replacement for the old R(A) rating). The randomness thereby defies description and gains proportions similar to other countries. Flicks like 'The Devil's Rejects' or some parts of the 'Saw' saga came off scot free, whereas lately flicks like 'Horsemen', 'District 9', or the subject of the following report 'Ninja Assassin' could only be released in an edited M18 version.
At least those mandatory cuts are mentioned on the cover of affected movies in a sort of 'kind' way: When cuts have been made this is made recognizable by an Edited Version sticker next to the rating symbol, something many film fans would appreciate in other countries.
Most cuts in the version of 'Ninja Assassin' which was used for this report seem quite comprehensible as they are cuts of some of the most violent parts of the movie, but looking at the remaining scenes of violence, one asks himself what has happened. It's hard to imagine that the respective material is making the difference concerning the reception and processing abilities considering violence of an 18- resp. 21-year-old Singapore citizen (the uncut version would have got a R21 rating by the BFC).
But this seems to be an issue in any country of the world, no matter what underlying structures of censorship are being applied.
The runtime information about the cut scenes is referring to the cut version.
Any additional runtime difference is a result of rounding of the runtime of one or another cut scene to half or full seconds.
9 cut scenes = 43 secs.
The Yakuza mobster gets half his head chopped off in a very gory manner. It catapults out of picture; his perplexed boss gets blood spattered all over his face. The following shot begins some frames earlier, during which much more blood is spattering out of the cut head.
The headless body is crashing through the glass table a bit longer, blood spatters from the stump. The camera moves backwards and you can see the upper half of his head landing on the floor quite a bit away from the rest of the body, with blood spattering around; of this 'landing' of the upper part of the head, only the last frame is remaining on the Singapore DVD (it's practically already lying on the floor, seems to be badly cut).
The chopped up remains of the Yakuza mobster who had been pulled up before are 'raining' down on the wooden crates, accompanied by lots of blood, earlier in three additional shots.
The gang's head loses his in a very gory way in two shots, the 'rest' of his body slowly sinks down. The following shot start some frames earlier, the decapitated neck can be seen more clearly.
Who knows why: The Singapore DVD version is missing the beginning of the following scene in the parking garage. Mika walks to her car and opens it with her remote control; Maslow approaches from the background and scares her off big time at the car. He tells her that she stay calm and that they are being watched. He then walks to the passenger's side, Mika enters the car and looks around in an unsettled way.
Raizo is hit in the face by the Kingpin with two heavy strikes of his fists. After the first one, he spits a lot of blood. He can avert a third punch in his face.
The Kingpin reaches for the blade stuck in his arm, followed by a shot of Raizo. Kingpin pulls out the blade, a lot of blood is flowing from the wound. The camera moves to his angry face (the Singapore version sets in with his angry look towards Raizo).
Raizo bangs Kingpin's head against the urinal four times before, which causes the poor guy to spit a reasonable amount of blood every time.
The extremely gory passing away of Ozunu got cleared of the part where Raizo, after changing his grip on the sword, heftily pulls it so it comes out of his body accompanied by a lot of blood. Further, he twists the blade in his enemy's body and pulls it out of Ozunu sideways with a decent sweep, which causes another tidal wave of blood to shoot out of the 'wound'.