Jûsan-nin no shikaku (2010) Poster

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Another brilliant genre masterpiece from Takashi Miike
cadillac202 May 2011
Takashi Miike is arguably one of Japan's hardest working directors who has tackled several different genres, generally with good results. It used to be he would do a dozen or so projects a year, and more in his earlier days. This, of course, has diminished in place of bigger projects, but the man still remains one of Japan's most well known and prolific directors. So, it shouldn't surprise anyone that his undertaking of yet another new genre, the samurai epic, is something of a highly anticipated film. And yes, it succeeds in being another brilliant masterpiece from the man.

13 Assassins, though full of characters, is quite simple actually. A master Shogun samurai is charged with the killing of a cruel and masochistic Shogun lord before he can become more influential in the Japanese Shogunate. With this mission, he gathers together 13 samurai to join him in what appears to be a mostly suicidal mission as they take on a small army of soldiers. For years I have argued that Miike is a master filmmaker that doesn't get nearly the kind of recognition he deserves, as his experience and resume put him up with the likes of other classic filmmakers. This shows in Assassins as he brilliantly puts together this simple, yet purposeful film that calls back to the era of epic samurai films of the likes of Akira Kurosawa. In fact, the influence of Seven Samurai is quite apparent here, even going so far as to model some similar characters. However, do not be mistaken, as this is very much a Miike film, a combination of his abilities to craft a mainstream film and a cult hit.

And the trademarks are certainly there, with the sadistic young Shogun lord bearing the bizarre violent fetishes that have been displayed in Miike's more obscure works, namely Ichi the Killer. As you might suspect, the violence early on is shocking, effective, and often unexpected. This gives way later on to more stylish violence, but none the less, the film is incredibly violent, worthy of a hard R rating by American standards. Miike fans should be very pleased as he both employs his skills as a filmmaker while at the same time adhering to the general guidelines of making a samurai film. Here, he delves greatly into the genre, showing what it means to be a samurai and questioning their purpose through multiple views. Our master samurai, Shinzaemon, sees samurai as being for the people, while Hanbei, his rival, sees them as entirely in servitude to their master without question. Even the young lord, Shinzaemon's target, has a view, thought it is certainly the most negative of any of them.

If I have any complaints, it's two. First, the film does little exposition of the large cast and most of the assassins are simply there to be a fighting force. We learn very little about most of them, and even the samurai we do learn about, including Shinzaemon, get little exposition besides what we already expect, that he's a great samurai of justice. The second would be the clunking over the head about samurai ideals. Miike continues to push messages we've already acquired early in the film and it becomes slightly redundant by the end. However, these are minor complaints that are mostly easily ignored as the film runs at a fast pace with a 45 minute battle that is one of the best samurai battles I've seen on film, comparing to Azumi or Zatoichi's finale, but arguably handled better and with a master's touch.

It's hard to know if this is Miike's pinnacle. He certainly creates a modern samurai masterpiece of an epic here. One particularly powerful scene will remain with you for a long time, and this is the power of Miike's film, one that goes to places many are afraid to tread to leave a lasting impression. Violent, entertaining, and with good examination of the samurai and their duties, fans of Miike's previous films and fans of the samurai epic will not be disappointed.
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Thundering Shogun!
armandcbris4 October 2010
This film was a dark-edged delight from beginning to end when I saw it at the 2010 edition of TIFF. The audience there loved it too, breaking out into spontaneous applause during several scenes.

Solid direction by Miike, great characters, beautifully shot and simply some of the best and most intense action sequences put on film - ever! It does have it's obvious influences, such as Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai", but damn, this one kicks ass mightily! You've never seen Shogun like this! And something else to point out: the sound on this film was thundering, shaking and stellar! THIS is the kind of film that reminds us why we go to a movie theatre to enjoy a film on a big screen, why we turn off our cell phones and immerse ourselves in the experience of cinema-going, as opposed to staying home on our couches.

I'll go see it again on the big screen when it hopefully returns to town - you can bet on that!
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A Future Classic by Takashi Miike
Claudio Carvalho24 October 2012
In 1844, the peace of the Feudal Japan is threatened by the cruel Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (Gorô Inagaki) that is politically rising and getting closer to his half-brother, the shogun. After the harakiri of Namiya clan leader, the samurai Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho) is summoned by the shogun's adviser Sir Doi (Mikijiro Hira) of the Akash Clan to listen to the tragedy of Makino Uneme ((Takumi Saitô), whose son and daughter-in-law have been murdered by Naritsugu. Then Sir Doi shows a woman with arms, legs and tongue severed by Naritsugu and she writes with her forearm a request to Shinza to slaughter Naritsugu and his samurais.

Shinza promises to kill Naritsugu and he gathers eleven other samurais and plots a plan to attack Naritsugu in his trip back to the Akash land. But the cunning samurai Hanbei Kitou (Masachika Ichimura) that is responsible for the security of his master foresees Shinza's intent. Shinza decides to go with his samurais through the mountain, where they find the hunter Koyata (Yûsuke Iseya) that guides them off the mountain and joins the group. Now the thirteen men prepare an ambush to Naritsugu and his army of two hundred samurais in a suicide mission to stop evil.

"Jûsan-nin no shikaku", a.k.a, "13 Assassins", is a future classic of the samurai genre by Takashi Miike. It is inevitable to compare this film with Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurais" and the epic "The 300 Spartans", but "13 Assassins" is among the best samurais movies I have ever seen, with a solid story in the Edo period of Japan, stunning cinematography, wonderful performances and fantastic choreography in the battle scenes. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "13 Assassinos" ("13 Assassins")
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413th Review: Excellent Samurai Movie And One Of The Films Of The Year
intelearts10 May 2011
This is an epic masterpiece and is clearly a cut above most films in direction, acting, and cinematography. But what really sets it apart is that it connects the viewer to Bushido and has those values firmly at its core.

The sadistic tyrant who must be assassinated or Japan will turn once more to feudal warfare is told with verve and elan, but also with real dignity and a great sense of pace. The first hour is simply superb as we watch the recruiting and planning of the assassins. The second hour is a maelstrom of action with katanas flashing and impossible odds. I actually preferred the first half in the main, but absolutely no complaints with the action either.

All in all, this is simply, by far and away, the best action film of 2011 so far, but putting in a genre does not do it justice - for this reviewer, it is the most complete cinematic experience since Winter's Bone and is that rare animal these days - a film that looks, feels, and produces the sensation of film rather than TV.

Probably one of the better films (Japanese or otherwise) I have seen this decade without exaggeration - it actually attempts to embody Bushido and understand the meaning and purpose of the Shogunate and the Samurai - plus Katanas - oh yes - lots and lots of katanas.....
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Mainstream Film-Making at its Very Best
8thSin15 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Director Miike Takashi was once a cult film phenomenon in Japan with controversial films such as 'Audition', 'Dead or Alive' series, and 'Koroshiya Ichi'. Recently, however, his works are getting more mainstream-friendly with high-budgeted films such as "Crows ZERO" series, 'Ryuu ga Gotoku', and 'Yatterman'. Sure, there's still plenty of violence, but nowhere near as shocking nor horrifying as his earlier films. Is he a sellout? Perhaps. But how can we blame him? You'll be approached by major studios once you attain certain level of fame, and higher budget means it must appeal to more people in order to get the investment back. '13 Assassins' delivers exactly that despite being a Japanese period piece, which traditionally appealed only to the older generation and film buffs. The movie was screened at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival under 'Masters' category, "Films made by the most influential directors living today", and Miike Takashi lives up to expectations.

'13 Assassins' is supposedly a remake of 1963 jidaigeki (Japanese period piece) of same title. Let me tell you this, the movie is not a true jidaigeki. Miike Takashi has transformed it into a 126 minutes of pure fun and excitement.

The story is about an assassination attempt of a tyrant lord by 13 'true' samurais who are believers in justice and uprising on behalf of the People in the year 1844. The original film was famous for its 30 minutes of continuous battle sequence, and the remake's may be even longer. Long story short, it's action-packed, and more people got slashed than in the 'Azumi' series in this movie.

As a service to Miike's cult following, the movie is far more violent than typical jidaigeki, with plenty of gut-exploding, head-rolling action and some grotesque scenes involving a woman with separated limbs (who created a plot device that ultimately became one of the most dramatic scenes in the movie). Unlike other Japanese war epics, the movie also has a modern sense of humor with plenty of comedic reliefs, astonishingly beautiful cinematography in the forest, and advanced battle tactics. What's surprising, is that none of it felt unnatural and corny like every other modern jidaigeki films that attempted and failed miserably to modernize period pieces, such as "Tsukigami" and "Sakuran".

The cast is truly star galore with some of the biggest names in Japanese acting, and experienced supporting actors. About half of them are actors with extremely unique or modern faces that I would've never expected to see in a period piece, but none of the characters seemed out of place even though their faces are still very much identifiable. The biggest surprise was the choice of boy band SMAP member, Inagaki Gorou as the twisted villainous lord. Not only did he hold his own among far more talented full-time actors, he was vital in much of the humor that made this film a success. Truly talented directors are capable of drawing the most out of his cast, and Miike had done just that.

'13 Assassins' is a movie destined to become a blockbuster. Time just flies by when you're having fun, and the audience at the TIFF screening were applauding in every cool and dramatic scenes, and eventually turned into a standing ovation as the credits started rolling.

Remakes are all about translating an outdated (or foreign culture) piece into a work that appeals to the modern (or local) audience. '13 Assassins' does both with universal language of comedy and violence which transformed a classic period piece into a thriller for the modern taste that anyone over the age of 12 (or whatever age restrictions this film will get in your country) can enjoy despite being a jidaigeki. I would recommend this movie to just about everyone. In fact, you don't even need to be a Japanese movie buff to appreciate it. Mainstream film-making at its very best.
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13 assassins, one memorable movie.
lewiskendell29 August 2011
"Thirteen. The time has come to lay down your lives for the greater cause. Are you ready?"

13 Assassins is all about the payoff. And the payoff comes in the form of 50 minutes of absolute carnage at the end of the movie. The story is about 13 warriors, some of the last truly capable samurai at a time when the era of those legendary soldiers was coming to an end, who band together to kill a despicable, deranged and utterly evil lord who is step-brother and future heir to the ruling shogun. Greatly outnumbered, the men devise a plan to force Lord Naritsugu and his guards to a village that they've prepared as what can only be called as a deathtrap.  

If you liked the "Crazy 88's" fight from Kill Bill Volume 1 or the massive battle at the end of Azumi, then the epic showdown at the end of 13 Assassins automatically makes this a must see. But what about the preceding half of the movie? Most of that time is spent introducing us to the 13 assassins, Sir Hanbei - the noble but loyal to a fault man who is in charge of Lord Naritsugu's safety, and making us hate (and I mean REALLY hate) the lord himself. This portion of the movie was necessary to setup finale, but it was understandably not as exciting or captivating as the lengthy battle it precedes. 

Rest assured though, the storytelling doesn't stop when the action begins. Some action scenes in movies can be so endless that they become monotonous (and boring, as a result), but 13 Assassins neatly avoids that trap by including character development until the very end. 

This is a brutal, visceral movie, from the sadism of Lord Naritsugu to the blood-soaked, frenetic finale. If that sounds like something you'd be interested in, I heartily recommend that you give it a shot. 
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One of the best I've seen..
robertestx5 September 2011
This movie has an immense amount of depth for a movie of it's genre. There are many things about this movie that motivated me to rank it as I did. Starting with the acting - from the main characters, their roles, words, facial expressions, movements - done with such sincerity. Honest, real emotions. It gives you a glimpse into a world where honor is defined and mutated by the hearts of men. One Samurai, honors and views his position as a guardian of the people, able to see, comprehend, and act upon injustice. And the other Samurai? His heart is not towards the people, but has, as I've said mutated into an honor, that seemingly cloaked in the traditional honor of serving and protecting his lord, is really mutated into a self-serving, blinded existence that could potentially be his downfall. Who knows? Who triumphs in this movie? Be prepared to be surprised on many levels! The swordplay is bar none in my opinion. The landscape genuine, with fantastic cinematography. As many movies in this genre, there are moments of 'over-the-top' exclamatory remarks that often typify a Shogun/Samurai flick, this just keeps reminding you that an American producer with more eye for gore than plot is NOT at the helm of this ship. This movie has it all for me. It has a plot, a story line that will have you remembering the 7 Samurai, The Magnificent 7, and a little of the A-Team, but done so in a remarkable fashion, executed in a classical, raw, well orchestrated fashion. I will watch this again. I will undoubtedly see more to this movie then, than now. And that will be a treat unto itself. If you are a fan of the Samurai/Shogun genre of film. Watch this. pop the popcorn or whatever, but don't drink too much because you will not want to get up, even for a bathroom break on this one!
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By far Miike's most outstanding film to date
malbanese4 April 2011
Having been furious at American cinema for releasing some garbage over the past few years, I have purely focused on international cinema and more so Asian cinema. You would be hard pressed finding better films than what South Korea has to offer. Unless you stumble across 13 Assassins. My god, what an experience. And that is exactly what it is, an experience. Exactly what cinema is meant to be. I will not spoil any part of this film other than saying, if you are sick and tired of the same old melodramatic, over hyped, under performed, over budgeted, egotistical, run of the mil ho hum doldrum from modern day cinema, then you must (and I mean must) see 13 Assassins. This film is a solid entry from Takashi Miike. His previous films were everything from outstanding to bizarre, but this film speaks volumes. It is a film reminiscent of 7 Samurai, brilliantly executed. Takashi Miike has certainly matured in his vision, bringing to the screen an instant classic. Tell your people, friends, family, scream it from the rooftops.....13 Assassins is brilliant! Now, how long will it take Hollywood to bastardize this film?
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The Master Strikes Again
I'm a huge fan of Takashi Miike, so I was very excited to be able to attend a sneak peek of his latest film. Miike's one of those directors who seems to be trying to make at least one film in every style, and this latest is his foray into the classic "samurai avenging injustices" genre. Only, we all know by now that Miike's style is anything but "classic." He always manages to find a way to infuse his own unique, warped imprint into everything he touches. Especially since he insists on making the most bizarre cameos possible in all the films he directs. They are always really fun to watch for.

So, this film is great. It starts off just as slowly as any of these old period pieces set in feudal era Japan, but it quickly descends into pure mayhem and madness. Shinzaemon is a retired samurai, but he is prompted back into action when he learns that the Shogun's "adopted" (code for bastard) son, Lord Naritsugu, has been terrorizing peasants. He's been killing and mutilating men, women and children all throughout the land, and all with the most cold- hearted, disinterested cruelty. So Shinzaemon decides to assemble a band of other idle samurai to hunt this despot down and assassinate him. Those would be the thirteen assassins that give this film its title. And they really are a very mismatched band of warriors. And these men are caricatures—each outrageous in his own way.

The one thing I really love about Takashi Miike's style is that he's never afraid to just go for it. He's got no shame, and absolutely no restraint. I think this is because he has a deep-rooted sense of humor (albeit a very dark one). It's an ability to identify and appreciate the absurdity in life. Miike's films have a reputation for being pretty violent and bloody (and this one is certainly no exception). But they are also incredibly funny. The gore is certainly meant to shock, but I don't think it's just for the sake of a cheap thrill. I think it's meant to throw us of balance. His work is horrifying where we expect delicacy, and actually quite subtle where viewers typically expect to find vulgarity. Of course, we can always count on Miike for some truly silly stunts too. The result is audiences that are quite delighted and amused, even after witnessing all the horror and disfigurement and devastation. Those moments are upsetting and heartbreaking, for sure. But, Miike really understands how a film should flow, and balances these difficult scenes with the right dose of irreverence. He's a true master, and this film is a roaring success.
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