Friday, January 6, 2012


十三人の刺客 (13 Assassins)
Released 9.9.2010 (Venice Film Festival)

Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Daisuke Tengan

"13 Assassins" is a grim samurai tale that feels both fresh and classic. Takashi Miike offers us a change of genre and style that I welcome and hope are a new direction for him. The final battle is something to experience and the road there makes it worth it.

At first glance this looks like a modern channelling of a Akira Kurosawa masterpiece ("a" because that man had more than one), "Seven Samurai." In fact, "13 Assassins" is a remake of another earlier Japanese film of the same name. What surprised me most about this movie was that it was directed by Takashi Miike who is know for his crazy and extreme films. This one appeared relatively straightforward and void of the bizarre. While I've only seen some Miike films, this is by far his most accessible.

This film is set near the end of Feudal Japan where a sadistic tyrant, Lord Naritsugu (played by Goro Inagaki), tortures villagers for his own pleasure, but is protected by his royal lineage. An older samurai, Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho), is secretly hired to take out the evil lord. As the title reveals, he gets a motley crew together to aid him in the just cause. Miike builds us to loathe Lord Naritsugu through disturbing scenes and stories. The slow buildup to what we can only assume will be a big battle proved to be an anticipatory and fascinating process. I was fully invested by the time we got there. Yes, the entire third act of this film is a lengthy bloodbath the likes of which we hardly see. 13 samurai, supervised by the respectable Shinzaemon, fight a foe that far outnumbers their own. It is a task that just might claim their lives and even then will they get to the significantly protected Lord Naritsugu who is a threat all of his own?

A brief moment of irksome CGI might be my only complaint for a film that I've given thought to over the months since I saw it. Terrifically acted and superbly staged, this is a story and skirmish you will remember. It remains very cinematic (though never flashy) and contains a weight of realism. The finale in particular is a surprising raw scene emotions and gore. The obedience their opponents show for their leaders (even when corrupt) is an interesting topic of loyalty and virtues that is sewn into Japanese culture and history. Also, make sure you read about the interesting implications of assassin's 13th member. This is definitely not for everybody, particularly those who cannot stomach the inevitable carnage. However, for those who can and those who have an affinity for samurai flicks, it's one you should not miss.


CONTENT: strong bloody violence, disturbing images, and nudity

1 comment:

Galyn said...

Thought I'd pass just looking at the content.