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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For so long I've waited to be blown away by a film. Every movie I've
watched recently just doesn't measure up. As films continued to
disappoint me I found solace in comics and TV. Finally, Takashi Miike
releases his masterpiece. This film is grand on every scale and is so
beautifully composed, it hit every note.
I'll start with the expectations of a Miike film. He is known for his violence and gore, which is simply underestimating the man. Sure, films like Visitor Q and Ichi the Killer flirt with controversy before sodomizing it, but he knows how to create a movie. He manages to reduce and compromise our expectations with the opening scene. A man commits harakiri. Always gruesome, but Miike actually cuts to just the man's face. Is Miike getting soft? Far from it. This just means that the violent showdown is all the more powerful. He releases the violence when the time is right.
Unlike recent Hollywood action films, Sucker Punch and Battle LA, the journey towards the action is what makes it so fascinating. Miike spends a long time exploring his characters and their beliefs, as well as the themes of the movie. This means that the final fight is about something and someone. They aren't just trying to kill a guy, they are showing us what they believe. Like many samurai films, this deals a lot with loyalty, duty and honor. However, it is far more critical of these things than previous films. Inagaki plays such a despicable villain, that it parodies how dedicated his samurai are. Inagaki is such a fun villain to hate. He's egotistical and grotesque, always relying on those around him for protection. The film has a lot of dialogue as it escalates towards the finale, but it never tells us the exact plan.
I was completely unprepared for the last 40 minutes. Miike has built up his characters, has outlined the threats (and then increased them) and everything is set to go. So why is the finale so epic? First of all it starts with the absurd. Despite it's build up Miike throws a curve ball, but does so with such confidence that we are still gripped. He presents his 13 assassins (at first) as being almost invincible. They dive around, take on dozens of samurai etc. but it's all a lot of fun. Next, he starts to injure the protagonists. It comes as a shocking reminder that these guys can be hurt, making us now fully invested in the scene. Miike shoots everything with a simple fluidity. You can see what is going on, who is killing who, even though you are surrounded by blood and explosions. Finally, as the characters have been whittled down, we get a personal confrontation. One that reminds us what all this is for. It takes a lot of skill to make a lengthy action scene enjoyable for its duration. Especially when it goes from fun, to tense, to tragic, before it all comes to an end.
It's a film that really does come together. I was more than satisfied, and I felt that I had been escorted on a complete journey, whilst enjoying the sites.
Takashi Miike's "13 Assassins" is the Japanese gore maestro's first
true epic film. The movie is bloody and incredibly realistic, yet
there's also some elements of the supernatural thrown in for good
measure. And did I mention that the film is incredibly bloody? The
film's climax has to have set a record for the longest cinematic action
sequence and the requisite body count to boot. Set in 1844 Japan during
the Edo Period, the story concerns an assassination plot that basically
amounts to a suicide mission: 13 samurai, under the leadership of
Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho), have been hired out to assassinate Lord
Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki), a sadistic young Lord to the Tokugawa
shogunate. The first half of the film, in what I could guess is a nod
to Akira Kurosawa's epic "Seven Samurai" (1954), deals with the
selection and recruitment of the men for this mission, and the second
half of the film is basically an hour-long bloodbath. Miike's
reputation was made around the world with the 1999 horror film
"Audition." With his latest, it shows that he has indeed matured as a
filmmaker and is definitely ready to take on hefty subject matter - the
historical samurai epic. Although there's plenty of blood and guts
here, Miike is more concerned with the reasons why these men are
fighting and who they are exactly. Many of the samurai recruited by
Shinzaemon are either too young or too old for this mission (and some
are more developed than others, the film's only true weakness with such
a significant cast), but they fight anyway because they believe that if
Lord Naritsugu is elected to the shogunate council, it'll plunge the
country into a civil war. So a great many things are at stake here, the
most significant of which is the very future of the country. This is
undoubtedly Miike's epic, his modern-day equivalent of Kurosawa's
"13 Assassins" - 10/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Being a fan of Japanese culture and consequently Japanese cinema, I was surprised not to have seen any film by Takashi Miike prior to this. But that was possibly not too improbable, as Miike is notorious for his over-violent blood-stained movies that have a hardcore audience that indulges in extreme violence and perverted images. Truly, this film is violent and yes, blood flows aplenty during its 50-minute (!) battle sequence, but the merits of "13 assassins" far exceed the stylistic presentation of gore and extremity. The film is based on true events that took place 100 years prior to the Word War II. A veteran samurai by the name of Shinzaemon Shimada is ordered by an elder of his clan to assassinate the Shogun's adopted brother, Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira whose lustful and extremely brutal actions threaten to plunge the country into chaos. Simple as that. But the execution is truly a work of art. Using photography that immediately hurls the viewer in Edo period Japan, Miike first portrays the evil nature of Lord Naritsugu through ingeniously crafted scenes, such as the close-up to the samurai's face who is committing suicide by harakiri in protest and the portrayal of the tongueless dismembered woman whose bloody tears create a feeling of grotesque horror and disgust towards the Lord's conduct. Those are the most powerful scenes in the film and yet they show almost no blood at all (contrary to Miike's usual preferences). On the other hand, blood flows during the epic battle sequence at the last hour of the film, as a battle ought to be - realistic and merciless. The sheer brutality of hand to hand combat is shown in a no-nonsense way that few Hollywood filmmakers can capture (or are allowed to...). And yet Miike manages to create a connection between almost all of the characters and the audience, as character development is something which is taken very seriously. He conjures outstanding performances by all of his cast, namely Koji Yakusho, Goro Inagaki and Masachika Ichimura, as Shimada, Naritsugu and Hanbei respectively. Humor is also present in the film, at the right amounts to give a relief, but never exaggerated. The exception is the inclusion of a hilarious scene of one of the group and the mayor of the city which is shown only in the longer Japanese version of the film. Although too far-fetched it didn't bother me at all. It's yet one more example of Miike's bold filmmaking which manages to "bend" even mainstream "rules". Not suited for conservative audiences, but then again, when were Miike's films like that? In all, we 're dealing with an impressively directed film, abundant with brilliant performances, capturing photography and filled with scenes that will follow you for a long time. I can't get over the human wreck crying blood from her eyes and writing with a brush in her mouth "EVERYONE DEAD"... Even if some scenes (especially in the longer Japanese version) require some understanding of Japanese folk legends, history and/or geography, in order to get their deeper significance, the film is enjoyable nevertheless. It's not for the faint-of-heart, but it's as realistic as it should be. A modern "period epic" about honour, dignity, war and justice. One of the best films of 2010 and probably a standard for future historic epics. Truly impressed!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was a great true story of how a maniacal lord was to take power.
In the thresholds of the house of the Shogun, a man with a lust for the
macabre was becoming something of a tyrant, where by cutting off limbs
or torturing the more less fortunate people for his pleasures. During
this romp of chaos, a middle man Sir Doi (Mikijiro Hira) gives a secret
order to stop this crazed individual by use of a group of assassins,
thirteen in all. Heading this group is Samurai Shinzaemon Shimada (Koji
Yakusho) who orders his men to stop this crazed individual by any cost,
which includes their lives.
But to do so would mean to buy up an entire town and set it up so it becomes a literal death trap. But the lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (Goro Inagaki) has his own methods of outsmarting his foe. By fortifying the odds, and recruiting more men which toppled two hundred. Now with the town fortified with booby traps, and Shinzaemon's men ready, they go into battle in quite possibly the most blood drenched sword fighting scenes (Over 20 minutes) I have ever witnessed in a movie.
This is how the wars between the common man, and the samurai had been held. With no mercy or any kind of remorse to their actions. What makes it such an interesting film also, is that hardly no music is played to add to the scenes of fighting. This adds a more real, and more deadly ambiance. Though music does add some impact to the genre, I found it to be most satisfying without music.
You can hear the grunts, the screams, the metal to metal clashes of swords which make you cringe. In the most recent years, this is the movie for fans of this kind of genre. To see how it was back in the days of wars, noble houses, and the Edo period for which it is still as potent today as it has been for the last two hundred years. I give this film a high recommendation for those who love to watch the code of the samurai at its best. Imagine, thirteen men against two hundred, and defeating them all. Not a film for those under seventeen.
This is really a fantastic movie...a real samurai movie. Perfect picture, perfect screenplay (thumbs up for Tengan-Ikegami), perfect directing, perfect camera-work (even if sometimes it is boring for the repetitiveness of the left-right movements). Very good acting, Takayuki Yamada is a very talented young actor and for the other cast is first class Japanese actors...the fight scenes are perfect, really, i mean perfect: no blur, no flying camera, no bad artificial effects or recreations (like CSI...). The first part of the movie is fantastic...you can feel the tension growing; you know that is going to explode but you don't know really when and when it comes you just want more and more and this movie gives you enough. Takashi Miike is known for the color filters (and violence)and in this movie there is an appropriate use of these (both). His maturation makes him a real artist, and this is prove of it. Best film of the year.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While most modern action movies feel bloated and overlong, with
unnecessary subplots sprouting on every scene, 13 Assassins has the
opposite problem. An epic Jidaigeki homaging Kurosawa's Seven Samurai,
the film follows veteran warrior Shinzaemon Shimada, entrusted with the
task of eliminating a bloodthirsty powerful nobleman, untouchable by
the law; Shimada assembles a team of fighters for the dangerous
Structure is simple. In the first act, 13 Assassins introduces the major players and displays the nobleman's atrocities (one moment in particular is truly disturbing, cementing the movie's R rating); in the second, Shimada and his men reach an isolated village to prepare the trap, while the nobleman's right-hand man Hanbei attempts to anticipate their moves. The last act is a bloody, pulse-pounding battle which, in spite of its length (over thirty minutes), maintains a great level of tension.
While action is spectacular, characterization is lacking. Kôji Yakusho is excellent as Shimada, but only three or four of his men - including his nephew and a clownish bandit who is a clear homage to Seven Samurai's Kikuchiyo - get any kind of development; the rest are simply guys with swords. With deeper characterization, the last battle would have been even more powerful.
I'll give director Takashi Miike credit for taking on adaptations or
topics that would be very difficult to be made into films. However, If
there is one genre I never expected this director to get his hands on a
jidaigeki or samurai films. His directional style worked for this film
and he surprisingly made a very good jidaigeki.
I have not seen the original and plan to watch it as soon as I get my hands on it. However, from what I have seen, the storyline was actually pretty good. The film focused very well on these assassins planning out their tactics, giving character depth on the characters who mattered, and portrayed their final battle against the warlord in a violent fashion that was just brilliant. One warning though, you will most likely be watching a film that follows the samurai's, planning out their tactics against the evil warlord throughout the film. Usually, this type of storytelling leads to a very boring movie; however, everything worked well enough where you will barely be bored and will be entertained. The film makes up the long wait with its final battle as the fight is one long fight. I liked how Miike presented the film as a samurai film and nothing different. You have the samurai honor, samurai code, and the samurai's and citizens acting like how they should during that time period.
I liked how the director portrayed the characters as it follows the time period and historical perspective of the time period. Unlike "Seven Samurai" as all of the samurai's played a vital role in the story, some of the recruits are not paid close attention to, as they are not in the same class as the samurai's who are paid attention the most. As the final battle occurred, I did forget that these assassins exist, but overall, their existence matters. Although they do play a vital role near the end, do not expect the film to focus onto these characters. All you need to know is that the Yakusho Koji's character, among others who have the most dialogue are the character's who you will care for the most.
I haven't seen a good cast in a Japanese film in quite a while. Yakusho Koji, Yamada Takayuki, Iseya Yuusuke, among others who are casted in this epic jidaigeki and they were all fantastic as their roles. Out of 13, at least 4-5 assassins were focused the most because of their class and all of the characters are awesome and likable. Iseya Yuusuke does play a character that you can recognize in "Seven Samurai," the wild character who joins the group of assassins; but I liked the character and he is a very good actor. Everyone who mattered in the film, performed very well and I really liked the cast they used for this film. You have a good amount of Japanese actors/actresses who were well casted and all gave it their best. Possibly, the most surprising was Nagai Goro who portrays the main antagonist. In Japan, there is a talent agency called Johnny's which holds a group of male idols who sing and dance around; basically an agency that promotes a great amount of Backstreet Boys. Most of them can't act nor sing and cause a film to go downhill fast because of their lack of talent. Nagai Goro is part of one of the boy bands named "SMAP" and isn't great when it comes to his acting skills; but surprisingly he was pretty good. His character is sadistic and evil as it comes and Goro pulled it off pretty well.
What surprised me most was the serious tone he delivered for this film. From all of the films I have seen by Miike, he always had to add these ridiculous scenes in between the plot; to add humor in between the story. I watched the 20 minutes of deleted scenes from the international release and surprisingly, all of the scenes that were cut out from the final cut didn't have as much ridiculous moments that I expected; they were scenes that could have made it to the final cut. However, as expected, their was one ridiculous scene and was glad to see that part being cut out. One thing that might be weird to people will be the ending as something peculiar happens. The ending will definitely cause some confusion, but I really liked how he made it an open ending. His ending will definitely get you thinking and it really worked for me.
If you have watched "Seven Samurai," then you know that the film presents a very long climactic battle. As I read in a few Japanese websites, both, this and the original, presents a very long climactic battle. If I remember correctly, the final battle is at least 45 minutes and what a long battle it was. The battle goes non-stop as you see the assassin's cut down their enemies one by one and seeing their planned tactic go into play. Miike really used his style of directing and created a bloody and violent battle that was entertaining. This film is a gore fest as you see blood squirting everywhere and seeing that all of the characters are pretty awesome.
It's been a while since I've seen a very good samurai film and Miike definitely surprised me with this flick. If you enjoy Miike's work or love samurai films, then you will have a blast watching this film.
This film had all the hallmarks of Akira Kurosawa's greats but with
Tarantino editing, large free flowing cinematic fight scenes amazing
CGI blood spurts and on top of everything actors with HEART.
There are some shocking limbless scenes but nothing too grotesque like Ichi the Killer for example. I really wish Hollywood would take note of great films like this, and leave them well alone.
Takeshi Miike deserves acclaim for this, it is his most subtle film.
Absolutely Knockout- plus a great, great no country for old men style ending.
The only person who could re-make this film in my opinion for a western market would be Tarantino himself.
10 out of 10
I have always admired Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai for its ability to
translate a good story into superb cinema. Here the seven become
thirteen who are to rescue people from a disturbingly unpleasant tyrant
whose leadership has run out of control. A meandering opening paints
the story upon which we have eavesdropped in a way oriental films excel
in. We are introduced to the characters who will, by the second half of
our evening at the cinema, be battling out an intense, bloody and
relentless fight to an honourable end.
Such is the way with these stories that advantage pitches first one way and then the other as if good and evil have no role to play in human affairs. All that matters is the honour of the participants each of whom has a sworn duty to their leader or master. There is no way out of this pitched battle and all else is swept from out of sight of our eyes and minds.
The cinematography, sound, editing and general continuity are absolutely masterful. The sets are like pictures spun to impress on us the time, the atmosphere, the tension, the emotions, the nerves, the sheer human quantity of not knowing what will happen next.
This is not another episode in martial arts for it is far too good to be just that. As in the Seven Samurai there are moral overtones to almost everything that we see and it is that upon which the film concentrates. And in the end we are exhausted but ever so willing to watch the whole film all over again.
Please see this film if you are in the least interested as to how good movies are made.
As the title implies, this is not a family picnic at a park on a Sunday
afternoon. Instead it is 1840s Japan and the time of the Samurai. A
Shogun's son spends his days and nights raping and pillaging the
otherwise peaceful community. Political machinations cause the bad boy
to rise high up in the chain of leaders and so an old warrior,
Shimzaemon gathers together eleven fellow Samurai to train for a
mission to assassinate the evil man, Naritsugu on his long trip home.
Their ambush is met with strong resistance from Naritsugu's men. The force is two hundred so they rely on guile to overcome being so outnumbered. The battle scenes, with swords, knives, arrows and explosives are beautifully choreographed and lead to an inevitable fight to the finish between a Samurai and Naritsugu. Although 13 Assassins covers a well worn theme, it is a journey worth taking.
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