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Jûsan-nin no shikaku
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Reviews & Ratings for
13 Assassins More at IMDbPro »Jûsan-nin no shikaku (original title)

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A samurai film that ascends to modern action standards while still true to its roots

9/10
Author: Movie_Muse_Reviews from IL, USA
20 December 2011

Samurai films tend to lean toward either overly talkative and boring or hyper-stylized to the point that credibility comes into question. Striking that middle ground, however, can lead to greatness, or rather — great honor. Takashi Miike's "13 Assassins" might not match the great Akira Kurosawa films, but boy does it come close, and it does so with themes and blades of equal sharpness.

If swords-and-sandals flick "300" had been less concerned about abs and Gerard Butler screaming war hyperbole, it would have looked and felt like this film. Anyone who hails Zack Snyder's 2006 film as a masterpiece should pull up a seat with this film for two-plus hours and see how it's really done.

Both the aforementioned film to which comparison is inescapable and "13 Assassins" tell a story about how the number of men indicated in their titles fought against an army numerous times the size. In this film, the reasons for fighting a battle most certain to result in death are less glossy and brash, as well as guided by some consideration for historical relevance.

The story takes place at nearly the end of feudal era Japan, when samurai have become nothing but show thanks to a lengthy time of peace. Yet one lord seems to undermine this peace with acts of cold-blooded violence: the shogun's half brother, Lord Naritsugu (Gorô Inagaki). It is expected, however, that when he returns from Edo, he will have a place on the shogun's council and have political influence to go with with warmongering ways. After a respected samurai commits harakiri in protest, the elder of the shogun council charges a samurai named Shinzaemon (Kôji Yakusho) with putting together a squad of samurai to kill Naritsugu before there's widespread unrest.

The beginning of the film shows us Naritsugu's cold and horrifying ways with enough brutal imagery to make anyone want to pick up a sword against this guy. The story then continues with the assembling of the 12 assassins (the 13th comes later) and their strategy for accomplishing the task. Yet on the other side is Hanbei Kitou (Masachika Ichimura), the samurai sworn to obey and protect Naritsugu who must develop counter-strategy to foil Shinzaemon, an old classmate of his from the dojo.

The game of strategy boils toward a 45-minute climactic battle in which the 13 assassins use everything from trickery to explosives to straight-up sword hackery against an army of 200 men from Naritsugu's clan. The delivery of these sequences rivals any modern action film, and that includes battle cries, little humorous lines tossed in for fun and especially creativity. One samurai takes out 30-plus guys in a narrow corridor that he prepped ahead of time with several swords carefully stationed throughout.

But most impressively, "13 Assassins" never loses sight of what its whole conflict is about. The plot doesn't exist merely as a formula guaranteed to produce an unforgettable culminating battle. Throughout the entire film, characters are questioning the values passed down to them for hundreds of years of honor and duty. Having essentially stood their whole lives as symbols of a fading age, they take on this quest in search of finally fulfilling that purpose of total commitment and servitude, yet this battle will teach them what it truly means.

Essentially, this is not the same movie if set in another time or another place, which sets it apart as a truly great action film. As replicable as a story of a small band of skilled warriors taking on the impossible is (it possesses a great number of similarities to what's considered the best of its kind, Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai," for one), writers Kaneo Ikegami and Daisuke Tengan give "13 Assassins" its own thumbprint with the context.

Miike then delivers the full impact of all the tones from pure syrupy action to dark, shocking drama. He knows exactly how to take a high-tension scene to a whole other level by creating a full spectrum of what we see versus what is kept from us, especially in terms of violence. As soon as he wants to export those talents to Hollywood, someone better answer. We could use more action films like "13 Assassins."

~Steven C

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Remakes do not get much better

9/10
Author: wdytreviews from United States
25 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What did I think? 4.5 of 5 stars. Caught it on Netflix but wished I could have seen it in a theater. Great acting despite having to divide attention to subtitles. Samurais at the end of Shogun era in Japan with a soulless Lord who is about to be assassinated by samurais numbering you guessed it, 13. Well 12 at first. The fight scenes are very well choreographed and very elaborate, it can be a little hard to keep up with who is who but not so much to make you lost. Takashii has probably created his best work to date and hopefully will keep it at this level. All of the actors did a great job not only emotionally but physically as I am sure the action was tough at times. Great action scenes in the end and good pace. Overall a great remake to the 60's original.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Brave Samurais are making the plot truly strong

Author: priyantha-bandara from Colombo -Sri Lanka
12 July 2011

Taksshi Mike gives a new face to the 1963 classic '13 Assassins' and he has executed it at grandeur level portraying an event which took place in Japans feudal era.

When an evil and sadistic lord is bringing horror to countrymen, few Samurais who were once loyal to the throne foresee a greater danger. If this Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira plunges himself to the throne in near future the country will be devastated and torn with war. Thus these brave set of men creates a silent and elite secret force in order to assassinate the lord. Gathering only 13 men to their force they fearlessly goes head to head against an army of 200 to fulfill their goal. Brutal and merciless Samurai swords speak for themselves.

This movie is a wonder of its own creation. It brings out ancient lifestyle of Japan in to light with details. And more than that the spirit of the brave Samurais are making the plot truly strong and when they fall and die one by one still they keep the heads high and hearts strong. Courage and determination of a worrier may not seem this strong in any recent movie which I recall.

However be warned that 13 Assassins is not an easy movie to digest. It has blood and gore in great volumes and violence sometimes you might not really expect. Yet they are important in order make the story run to your blood stream. And once the war hits the screen after a long and silent slow momentum, it goes right until the end which is nearly 30-40 mts. So you might actually lose the count of killing.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

The Rustic in the Woods

Author: tedg (tedg@filmsfolded.com) from Virginia Beach
28 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are some directors that you just consider geniuses. They innovate, walking into new modes, vocabularies. My list of these artists is short. They greatly enrich because they expand and challenge.

Other filmmakers may be talented and even capable of making personal films that are effective. But they are in a different class. They need to be approached with a different spirit. It is only an accident of the medium that they are lumped in with the greats. Miike is in this second tier.

He has made some films that I recommend, and I suppose them to be ones he generated from his soul. He also has some films of a different type, films that prove to himself that he is equal to those he considers the greats. As if often the case, this involves a copy or near-copy of an esteemed film.

Judging these is a tough business because the things I value the most are things that well up from a filmmaker's being, so when he intrudes on the original that difference is valued where another viewer might be offended. I thought the 'Psycho' remake was hypnotizing because of this.

Unfortunately, I do not know the original. But I am well familiar with the type, and I'd say that Miike goes a bit too far in suborning the instincts he has so that fidelity is preserved. Perhaps this is apt. The anchor of the story is absolute loyalty to tradition regardless of whether it is evil. The main body of society here is held together (we are repeatedly told) by tradition.

The thirteen assassins of the title are working under official but secret aegis to kill an evil lord who is next in line for control. The idea is to save society. We learn at the end, but any Japanese viewer will know from the beginning that the resulting 'new order' became the traditional framework in which they now live. So we get the tasty cake and eat it because we get to celebrate the formality on one side of this battle with the noble boat-rocking on the other.

This is no 'Seven Samurai' though the basic form is the same: the first act is the offense, the second the collection of the heroes, the third an epic battle against all odds where nobility of spirit triumphs. My guess is that Miike decided to use the stationary camera of Ozu with formal framing in the first two sections, and something like the fluid composition of Kurosawa in the battle.

I think he failed on both accounts. His framing and focus are not overwhelming in their order as Ozu could routinely produce. And in the battles he uses the modern 'Braveheart' camera (recently noticed on 'Transformers'), that gives blurred snippets giving less information than you need except when a notable slice, grimace, death or trap appears.

This is tolerable, but it does not do the job the man wished of it. It does not prove he is among the immortals. He seems to comment on this deliberately. Of the 13, one is not a samurai, but a simple, goofy thief. He, it turns out is the survivor and we get to hear him denigrate the masters he has fought with.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Elevates Drama, Repurposes Bushido, But Loses Much Of What Set The Original Apart

7/10
Author: Trent Reid from United States
22 April 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Like the original, Miike's remake reflects its time of production while elaborating and exceeding the genre tropes. However, it varies the direction of this deviation in interesting ways compared to the original and to such an extent as to stand on its own. Kudo's film had characters, protagonist and antagonist alike, motivated by bushido. And the late Tokugawa setting established these not as typical giri/ninjo conflicts of the genre, but as largely outdated ethics that turn their proponents into victims of historical and social forces outside of their control.

Miike brings in more of a gender component early on, with Goro Inagaki's Lord Naritsugu engaging in not only rape and child murder, but sexual mutilation and slaughter. This allows Miike to draw in contemporary audiences expecting such spectacle from him instead of talky, jidai-geki set-up. But it also explicitly gives the villain dialogue elaborating his view of bushido - that it is the way of samurai to die for their master, as it is for women to die for their men. This slight element of feminism is largely original to this remake, although it is more present in the second film of Kudo's trilogy - The Great Duel.

Through such explicit violence Miike also establishes more clearly delineated good/bad roles than the original film, to a different end. An innkeeper makes an aside to the effect that in these times, katana are only good for cutting daikon, and he has dozens piled up from losing ronin gamblers to prove it. It is the setting in which ethics have to be codified due to their irrelevance to daily life, as bushido has become a rationale for the sadism for the elite.

The original 13 Assassins by Eiichi Kudo was a reaction to genre convention, like Masaki Kobayashi's Seppuku or Hiroshi Inagaki's Chushingura/Loyal 47 Ronin of the year before. It shares the revolutionary spirit and critical sensibility of Hideo Gosha, Kihachi Okamoto and Kenji Misumi. In Miike's iteration, differing concepts of bushido are more explicitly stated as a means to update and simplify the material for contemporary audiences. Our heroes more explicitly shed their identities as the travel towards the final clash, encountering a country bandit played by Yusuke Iseya. He is suspended from a tree as punishment for philandering, and is jokingly referred to as a tanuki. But the character provides meaning through contrast, as Mifune's Kikuchiyo did in 7 Samurai.

Genre convention is played with, but more as a means to provide spectacle, a degree of feminist edge, and an updated film that casts the heroes as on a more current search for identity. Certainly less of a critique and deconstruction of those genre norms so prevalent and still popular at the time of the original film.

The climactic village death trap could also be interestingly contrasted to the finale of Seven Samurai. Director Kudo had Chiezo Kataoka lead the 13 assassins into executing an elaborate series of traps, leading up to his final duel with the villain's equally noble chamberlain played by Ryuhei Uchida. This film has Koji Yakusho doing the same, with the addition of some flaming CGI buffalo.

But whereas in the original, they are not killing one another out of personal malice but necessity, here the lines are clearly drawn and characters are assigned more or less noble deaths according to their virtue. The heroes attack and retreat in guerrilla fashion, but they do not die in quite as desperate and pointless a manner that the ending of the original film drove home. I won't spoil that ending here, I already did that in my spoiler-laden review of that movie.

It is the anti-climactic fashion of key characters' ends that defied cliché genre expectations in the original, and this is largely lost. Although the melee is equally frantic, and arguably even more well choreographed and excitingly shot by modern standards - it serves different and perhaps less pointed ends. By making the killing serve a dramatic point, it loses much of what set the original apart. That sense that hero and villain alike were bought and paid for, a product of their time and made to serve the ends of others.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A bore

3/10
Author: Apu Garnesh from United States
28 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Plot summary:

First 15 minutes: The half-brother of the Shogun is a stereotypical Japanese psychopath who likes killing and maiming his servants for sport. He'll soon be promoted to some Council where he'll have more power to do bad things. Therefore he needs to be assassinated. Let's call him Bad Boy.

Next 30 minutes: Recruitment of the 13 Assassins.

Next 30-40 minutes: Bad Boy is travelling from some part of Japan to another part of Japan. 13 Assassins plan their attack. They buy over some village that they know Bad Boy will pass by. and set it up Home Alone-style.

Final 1 hour: Bloodbath. And surprise, surprise! Bad Boy gets killed in the end!! End of movie.

Review: Everything is utterly predictable and stereotypical. Bad Boy is just the usual psychopath. The samurai assassins are your usual samurai. The story develops EXACTLY as predicted. Nothing interesting. No character development, no nuances, nothing.

When it finally gets to the bloodbath you are a little relieved because it has been a total bore so far. The initial Home Alone-style surprise attacks and explosives are somewhat amusing.

But when it gets to hand-on-hand (sword) combat it is just STUPID. The sword fighting had all the realism of a bad 1970's Hong Kong movie. All the bad guys (supposedly 130 of them) just dicking around, hovering in the background, while each assassin gets to pick off the bad guys one at a time. Each bad guy waits patiently for his turn in the queue to get sliced up.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful but gruesome

8/10
Author: PipAndSqueak from United Kingdom
24 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There is no avoiding the violence in this film but it is also incredibly beautiful. It is therefore hard to disagree with the hateful Lord Naritsugu at the end - where he declares that the war has been the most exciting part of his life. Prior to seeing this film I really did not understand the Shogunate and other Japanese cultural references. I'm pleased to have learnt some real history and come to appreciate more of the Japanese just from watching this film. OK, some of it might be fantasy but, for an entertainment, to have such an impact on me suggests its great power and value. Sound and colour are tuned to the max - leaving the impression of great subtlety. It is a real masterpiece and I will be adding it to my personal library ASAP. Despite its gruesome reality - I want to watch it again.

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12 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

A pale copy of Kurosawa's "7 samurai"

2/10
Author: ducon4 from France
1 October 2011

I'm a big fan of samurai movies, from Kurosawa to Kubayashi, or even movies like Zatoichi (old ones), the twilight samurai or Ghost Dog. So I was expecting something fresh with 13 assassins but I just found a pale copy of 7 samurai. It does not come close to the quality of Kurosawa's movie. The film tries to be realistic but is over the top quite a few time. The characters are just like in 7 samurai: One of them is not a real samurai, you have the pro, the young, the gambler etc.... It's just a remake of 7 samurai. The final battle in the village and the trap is also comparable. This movie is just more boring and does not show us anything new. A big disappointment for me. I'm saying all this because each time something happened in the movie, I was thinking "Damn again something stolen from 7 samurai".... I mean come on, give us something new apart from your super last fight which was honestly over rated. The manichean pseudo moral does not go to far either. They want to kill a very very very bad guy (who obviously has mental issues) and they try to turn this as a good vs evil thing... The actors and the music, which made 7 samurai unforgettable don't compare either. TO be honest, I got bored and I thought about stopping the movie.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

An awesome movie,especially for a remade classic!

9/10
Author: Gauravpati Singh from New Delhi, India
3 February 2016

I was actually looking for the 1963 Black & white movie this one is a remake of but got this one almost by accident.However, I'm not exactly disappointed because it's a Takashi Miike movie(not surprising he directed it if you know his works). This wasn't my first rodeo with Miike & I've watched his earlier works like 'Koroshiya Ichi"(Ichi the Killer) & "Visitor Q" &"Audition". So I expected the "Splatter Gore" he is so well known for & also his penchant for the Strange & Weird.But "13 Assassins" is him with a milder version of violence(on movie scale,that's comparable to Tarantino bloodfest &not overkill on fountains of blood except for one explosion scene in the movie that'll actually make you go "Soreha no Takashidesu")&no weirdness in story,probably since it's already off a well-known play & a movie.But characters in the movie have definitely been revamped to up the ante & have their own unique identifiers of 'just-off' which is super-cool! So whether it's super-samurais Shinzaemon & Hanbei(one master-less Ronin & other serving Akashi-clan tyrant Daimyo),classmates,rivals & with distinct qualities of opposing natures chosen to oppose each other, a violent Hiruyama(movie shows adviser Doi picking him for his "spirit of sword" kenki),apprentice Samurais Higoichi & Hioke who train in explosives but almost always get time of explosions wrong or mercenary spear-man Sahara,who just wants to live big..they are ALL a bit-off normal & chosen specifically to assassinate an even crazier & almost philosophically sadistic Daimyo(feudal lord) & King's adopted(read 'natural' or 'Bastard') Half-brother Naritsigu from a well-drilled Akashi army led by Hanbei. Weirdest & wildest of them all is 13th member,almost accidentally so & clearly inspired by Akira Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai''s Kikoichi character immortalized by Toshiro Mifune, the wild-ling bandit Kiga Koyita(played by Yusuke Iseya,who's a far cry from Toshiro,but is equally comic & nearly as unkillable). Takashi Miike got a lot of fun out of him but actually made him almost magically able to heal a sword wound & run around jumping after.He's one character who is hard to swallow..but rest are well-cast & great. A driven Shinzaemon(Koji Yakusho), strategic & 'okashira'(boss & trainer of 13) Kuranaga(Matsukata), Lost to gambling&finally-found a purpose(Takayuki Yamada with probably the widest scoped character of 13),Harakiri-driven Mamiya clan Zuso(Uchino)&Yahaachi Horii(Koen Kondo) are all well cast.Honor killing,Harakiri by Seppuku & assassination is the crux of the whole movie.The sadistic character of Goro Inagaki as Naritsugu deserves all the plaudits it can get & it was superbly put to life.He rapes,murders,mutilates,philosophizes, strategizes &dismisses his servants & enemies alike with equal disdain & is one for archives! All in all,story is well known,chase & strategizing & period drama dialog straight out of a Manga & actors brilliant.Definitely the best I've seen of Takashi Miike.When he's not being strange,he is one of Japan's best directors.Worth a watch as much as 1963 Eiichi Kudo version.Ones who like action will love it.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Amazing Build Up Into and Explosive Third Act

8/10
Author: Christopher Beeck from United States
10 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In "13 Assassins", Takashi Miike succeeds in making a samurai film for the ages. While the first two acts of the film can be seen as slow, they set the stage for the frenetic third act: one of the most enjoyable and creative action scenes in modern film.

The first two acts of the film do a wonderful job of characterizing Lord Naritsugu, a man who has come into power and is not afraid to abuse it. Naritsugu is truly one of the most despicable characters of any story and his twisted nature provide the audience a reason to root for our "heroes", the 13 Assassins. The first and second acts also excel at establishing the samurai code, and its inherent conflict. Should Hanbei, Naritsugu's main body guard, stick to the samurai code and follow his Lord until the end, even through the atrocities he witnesses firsthand; or should he stick up to his Lord and protect the weak?

The third and final act of "13 Assassins" might just be the most enjoyable 50 minutes I have ever seen. The action not only feels real, but is creative, unexpected, and has a surprising amount of comedic relief. When 13 Assassins have to face an army of over 200, they need to innovate and Takashi Miike does exactly that.

While the movie does a great job of building up tension in the first two acts and releasing it in the third, it does fall flat in certain areas, most notably characterization. While the 13 Assassins all have interesting backstories and personalities, we are only hinted at those in each individual introduction, which only last about 30 seconds. In the entire film, only about four characters experience any meaningful development: Naritsugu, Hanbei, Shinzaemon (the main hero), and Shinrokuro (Shinzaemon's nephew). The amount of exposition also takes away from the film as the story is generally told through explanation by one of the characters rather than by visual cues or inference.

Although not perfect, Takashi Miike accomplishes his goal in "13 Assassins", to create a truly enjoyable action movie. The build up of tension, culminating in the third act, is nothing short of brilliant and leaves the viewer near the edge of their seat throughout.

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