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13 Assassins is a film by renowned director Takashi Miike, a man most
famous for films like Ichi the Killer, Visitor Q, and Audition. If
you're familiar with his previous work then it comes to no surprise
that 13 Assassins is a very violent movie, though the violence in this
film is never as "disturbing" as in his other films. It is also a
remake of the 1963 film of the same name directed by Eiichi Kudô. In
short, 13 Assassins is both a visual pleasure and an engaging tale of
violence, honor, and tactics set in 19th century Japan. If you want to
watch a film with well directed action, then this is a great film to
13 Assassins is a very drab looking movie, and I use the term "drab" in the most respectful way possible. For most of the film the screen is covered in shades of grey, while other scenes are painted in such striking color that you can immediately tell what Miike was going for, which was to show the obvious wealth gap between the rich and poor. While it's never pointed out specifically, it would be an historically accurate representation of Japanese society in the 19th century. The actors, particularly Tsuyoshi Ihara, all do an exceptional job at giving their characters a sense of realism and a legitimate purpose in their reasons for joining the Assassins. Every character breathes with life in ways that few films manage to do and this might be the strongest aspect of the entire film. We often see characters interacting with each other and making jokes in way that provides some insight into why they're risking their lives for each other.
Despite for a few quick battles, much of the action is reserved for the final act of the film which serves as a very long battle in a small town turned into a death trap. Some might say that the battle alone is reason enough for watching the movie, but I personally found it boring at parts, though I recognize how impressive it all is despite that. The scenes with actor Gorô Inagaki are easily the show stealer for me. His character, Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira, is such a comically evil bad guy that despite his incredibly disgusting actions, I can't help but love him. His cruelty is unmatched in this film and everyone, including his own men, knows it.
I would recommend 13 Assassins very much. It might be Miike's most approachable film and is a great example of blending story and action in a way that doesn't feel forced and trite.
"13 Assassins" is an epic battle of good versus evil, with the stakes as high as they could possibly be. You've got a group of rag-tag heroes pitted against a villain so diabolical every cell in your being wants to see him killed. Don't think that means he's a cartoon though, because what really makes this movie something special for me is that while the film is grandiose and epic, it's never so outlandish that it feels like a fantasy film. The climax is nothing short of incredible. It grabs you, pumps up the stakes as high as they can get and never lets go until the credits start rolling. It's a sure hit for anyone who loves Samurai movies or any film where the underdog stand to lose everything but decide to take the chance anyway. One note though, when you watch the movie have your remote ready during the first few scenes because with the subtitles being at the bottom of the screen at the same time as some crucial written information being displayed, you have to pause the movie in order to get all of the little bits of information and the names memorized. If that sounds like extra work, you won't even mind after seeing the explosive action contained within this truly legendary battle. (Original Language with subtitles on DVD, January 2012)
Takashi Miike, better known for darkly funny and sadistically violent fare like AUDITION and ICHI THE KILLER, delivers an excellent period samurai film which also comments on the nature of honor, bushido and the concept of the samurai itself. The plot is rather simple: a group of 12 samurai (plus one other person they meet on the way) have decided it's in Japan's best interest to kill a lord with ties to the Shogun. The reason, well-established in early scenes, is because of his reckless disregard for human life. The first half is concerned with how the samurai conceive their plan and the second half is the execution of the plan, which is glorious and bloody. There was a lot of attention paid to the characters and their various motivations, and the story unfolded at a very nice pace: not too fast and not too slow. Also, being a Takashi Miike film, there was a couple of elements which put his stamp on the material (which is a remake). One is a particularly graphic suicide which opens the film, and the other is a naked, limbless woman without a tongue. One thing I did like about the movie was the meta-comments that were made on the concepts of bushido and the samurai, which completely removed any romanticism that might have at one point been associated with them. These ideas are expressed mainly through the 13th assassin and the lord (Naritsugu) who they're on a mission to kill. In such a stunning film, the only thing I can really complain about are some obvious CGI bulls (which are on fire) that appear in the second half. Other than that, this is an impressive movie no matter which way you look at it. Highly recommended, especially for fans of Japanese samurai films.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is this fellow with a lot of power who is jolly unpleasant to
people. So this bunch of samurai get together to bring about his
The first half of this film is set up and getting the samurai together, the second half is almost all action. There is an interesting question - never fully resolved - as to the conflict between doing the morally right thing ie. defending the victimised peasants, and following the samurai code ie. loyalty to one's master.
The story is essentially a variation on 7 Samurai, but it is done well. It is, please note, extremely and sometimes graphically violent in the modern manner.
Although this samurai bloodbath runs a little longer than it should have, it arguable is also the best film that Japanese legendary filmmaker Takashi Miike has made. Beginning on a slow note, 13 Assassins picks its pace up really well in the second half and ultimately culminates on a rousing high with blood splattered all over the screen. Impressive enough to be ranked as one of the best samurai films in recent times, 13 Assassins also pays homage to Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai in many ways & as far as the battle sequences go, at one point it seemed as if the battle will never come to an end. Wonderfully directed, sincerely performed & violently told, 13 Assassins is too bloody & violent to satisfy everyone's taste but for those who can handle it, it's an incredibly entertaining action film with massacre written all over it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The prolific and protean Takashi Miike, having already amassed a vast
and varied back-catalogue of contemporary thrillers, romance, comedy,
gore, action, drama and musicals in less than two decades, sucks it up
and takes on Kurosawa with this period samurai epic.
Japan, 1840s. It is an era of peace. A time of waning power and relevance of the samurai order, and the decaying final years of the ancient feudal Shogunate regime.
Lord Naritsugu, the preening and sadistic younger brother of the current shogun, carves out a swathe of terror and suffering, seemingly out of mere listless petulance. But with higher political office likely to come his way soon, and following the protest of ritual seppuku committed by a wronged clan leader; Sir Doi, a senior official in the current political order, covertly seeks out an experienced samurai to help rid the land of this cruel and dangerous presence.
From this set up, you can probably guess the rough structure of what follows. Our de-facto master samurai must assemble a small group of warriors to ensnare and take down the evil overlord, protected as he is by a small army of his own. This will involve the recruitment of some grizzled old fighters who have seen better days, some over-idealistic young students who have yet to fight a real battle, and of course, an unruly, somewhat comedic outsider who will be grudgingly admitted into the ranks against better judgement to make some unlikely but crucial contribution.
Whether it's Seven Samurai, The Dirty Dozen, or Ocean's Eleven, this is a movie in that grand tradition of the numbered, but outnumbered team of good guys taking on a big bad against the odds. What matters here is not that we can't see what's coming, but that this is a movie that takes such care and pleasure in the unfolding of the story.
Naritsugu is a truly appalling creation, grotesque in the casual disinterest he shows in the terrible violence he inflicts, like a child half-heartedly pulling wings of insects in boredom. He's a man out of time, no longer of use to a Japan at peace and soon to join the modern world. He only seems to engage with anything when the heat of battle is up, but even then, not to care over the win or loss that he and his men might achieve or suffer, but merely to have, briefly, any consequence at all.
The samurai , we gradually comprehend, are in a similar situation. The long unfolding of the first act explores the archaic ritual and routine of their antiquated order, the rich and complex intertwining of codes of honour, and conflicting loyalties, but also of nostalgic wistfulness for glory days long passed. It's a powerful and telling moment when the leader Shimada is shown (in an effort to sway his heart in horror and pity to the mission being proposed), a woman tortured to a gut- wrenching, nightmarish vision of Dantean hell, and rather than displaying anger or grief, his mouth twitches into a wry smile. He's just been shown a reason and purpose for his continued existence.
After that, it's men on a mission greatness. Plans, maps, subterfuge and misdirection, treks lost in the wilderness, and the "let's make our stand here" turn, with all the classic war movie / western / A-Team tension-ratcheting preparation that this entails. The third act battle is coming, and it's going to be something special.
A smartly constructed, character-rich adventure that segues into an object lesson in clear, dynamic battle staging that takes up at least a third of this lengthy movie and never bogs down or loses focus. Takeshi Miike, the infant terrible of Japanese gore, and crazed seven-films-a- year auteur of chaotic zombie-musical-comedy spoofs has pooled all his considerable talents here to craft an altogether more mature work. And, if he hasn't quite equalled the perfection of Kurosawa's samurai masterpiece, he's come majestically close.
Takashi Miike, notable from his excessive portrayal of sexuality and
ghastly violence on his films "Audition" (1999) and Ichi: The Killer,
is on top of his game once more. His next picture "13 Assassins" is a
true masterpiece since the late and legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa
reign supreme. Probably influenced by his unforgettable works in the
Japanese film industry, Miike is simply engrossed with the idea that he
himself could revive his notion into something bold and more
compelling. And there's no denying the fact that Miike has outdid it
gain, with a compelling story and strong performances, he follows Mr.
Kurosawa's legendary epic with a touch of his modern and relentless
style of filmmaking.
The film is a slam-bang remake of Eiichi Kudo's film back in 1963 of the same title, though it didn't go well that year. The story is set in 1844, the medieval Japan is threatened by the barbaric Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki), and is posed as threat for the Japanese era and is becoming powerful. After the hara-kiri protest of one of the Namiya Clan members, the protagonist shogun samurai Shinzaemon Shimada (Koji Yakusho) is summoned by a shogun adviser Sir Doi (Makijiro Hira) to listen to the tragedy of Makino Uneme, whose son and daughter-in-law have been murdered by Naritsugu.
After Sir Doi has revealed what Lord Naritsugu has done brutally with a woman, Shinza has been requested to defeat Lord Naritsugu to avenge her and all the people who have been murdered by Naritsugu's madness. Though the senior shogun adviser cannot defeat Naritsugu, Shinza gathers 13 samurai and plots to defeat him and his samurais, 200 warriors to be exact. Takashi Miike has the wit that a number 13 samurai warriors may and can defeat a number of 200 villains, even though the odds are pretty rare. Pretty much like Zack Snyder's 300, but I wouldn't compare this one into a somewhat mediocre sleaze-fest premise that Snyder made.
13 Assassins is a big-budget Blaxploitation film fueled with breathtaking narrative, great cinematography and costume design that really fulfills the wish of an epic world for Miike fans. The characterization is sharp and develops some humor which is evident in most of Miike's filmography. Though it'll take some gradual time before the film takes off to what the viewers are waiting for. As any Miike films filled with fountains of gore, 13 Assassins is a bloody-wish fulfillment.
The action remains to be the longest samurai battle of this century, but it is absurd to look at the time when it's over. It'll make you glued to the screen and harness a great action film. It's bloody and gripping especially when the Samurais are now engaging in a killing spree of clanging swords. It's impossible to resist an action battle like this.
Much has been said about the narrative, it's also quite long and talky. It'll take time before the action to arrive. But the film is ingenious on dialogue and is decisive. No matter how long we wait for the greatest moment on the film, it still matters how great the actors were. It is a balance of diminutive drama with more laughs and much more anticipation. But what it really bothers me is that somehow the film relied on CGI effects, though it's not that noticeable.
More and more films will still follow Miike's love of the Samurai films. Having said so, the next film he will direct is Hara-Kiri: The Death of a Samurai in 2012. I'm not quite sure whether fans would think of it as a sure bet for another Takashi Miike experience, but what the hell, if he can make a good film as good as 13 Assassins, I'm already sure that the next great experience is still yet to come.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like many of the best Japanese directors, the versatile Takashi Miike makes seamless transitions from genre to genre. The results vary, of course, but in general are satisfying. 13 ASSASSINS is the by-now-familiar tale of a group of samurai recruited to save a village. (While Akira Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI happens to be the greatest movie ever made, I don't really have a problem with the basic premise being borrowed for "reinterpretation"- though one WOULD like to think that contemporary versions were being undertaken to ADD to the mythology and not just to cash in on the originality of the original.) If I have a complaint (or two) about 13 ASSASSINS, it's in the way over the top fx: explosions one can kinda sorta accept (gunpowder, and all that), but the apparently very hastily constructed moving walls were altogether a bit much- and the minimal wirework could've been scrubbed completely without sacrificing anything at all. The Big Battle is good in that it gives one just a hint of how physically and emotionally wearing just such a confrontation might be. My final gripe is more confusion than anything else: was the guy at the end a ghost, or what...?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
13 Assassins is a surprising development from Takashi Miike; one that I
hope doesn't continue. Coming from him, even the inevitable carnage
that unfolds on screen is surely modest. An explanation might lie in
the fact that this is a remake of a half-century-old film, which could
explain his unusual restraint. Perhaps fidelity to the source material
which is based on a notable incident of recent Japanese history
mandated rigidity with regards to the narrative. It's isn't bad as much
as it's surprisingly inert. Still, of all of the ways the movie could
have undone itself, its adroit avoidance of glamorizing the historical
period in which occurs or cheaply exploiting its heroes' masculinity is
admirable in our era of shallow epics. This allows it to actually work
as the biopic it purports to be, unlike many of its contemporaries.
Miike's direction is evident, though it's odd to praise the subversive
director of films like Ichi the Killer for being conventional.
The story occurs late in the Edo period, which ended around the 1860's. This was when shoguns ruled the country through hereditary titles and military superiority. Samurais were their personnel who kept them in power, though some samurais were independent. So if a bad guy happened to inherit power, there was little the people could do to resist him. Many conventional movies have emerged from this setup, and this one fits nicely within its predecessors. 13 Assassins is the story of how a small group of samurai managed to overcome a force of 200 men in a small village.
Aging Shinzaemon recruits 11 men and sets out to kill Matsudaira, a local tyrant who loves to dismember and rape. There's nothing of note here until Shinzaemon splits his forces in two and sends one to the forest to take a short cut and the other to ready a village for capturing Matsudaira. The forest group encounters the movie's best character, Kiga, who adds some beneficial comedy to the leaden script. Kiga isn't a samurai at all, but the group reconvenes and adopts him as its final member. He may not even be human either, though you wouldn't know that without either being Japanese or reading Wikipedia.
The group meets at the village for ambushing Matsudaira, and actually manages to kill a lot of them before they die individually. Miike depicts their heroics and deaths like battles are normally shown in modern films. Each warrior gets his own screen time and occasional banter, though only Kiga's is memorable. He treats the entire scenario, including his own death, as a farce. Of all the stupid ways masculinity forces people to act irrationally, the belief that one must die to uphold an intangible honor is irrational, and thus bizarre. Mentioning this through Kiga was a great touch while he making a film in support of this crazy ideology. Eventually one samurai triumphs and is greeted by an otherworldly Kiga before the film ends.
13 Assassins is actually more worthwhile than I may have made you to think. If you haven't seen any of his earlier treasures, don't see this one yet. It's an unremarkable effort from a director full of films that are uniquely his, as you should see for yourself. The only Miike subversion I identified is Kiga's character, though he remains static throughout the entire picture. Miike recycles him from his first appearance to the end with little else to offer more demanding audiences.
Very well made with some quite awesome fight scenes, so hats off to the
stunt guys and fight arrangers (great stuff!). I found the beginning of
the film very confusing, there is a lot about the politics of the day
and I found it hard to decipher just who was doing what to whom. After
a while though the threads of the plot did begin to make sense and I
found it much easier to follow (& enjoy). In many ways it did put me in
mind of two films; 'The Magnificent Seven' (based on the 'Seven
Samurai' which sill lurks on my 'to see' list), and 'The Dirty Dozen'.
Both fine films in their own right, but I could see links to both of
them here. For me, I felt the level violence (& gore) could have been
turned up a notch, but I guess they really wanted that 15 certificate.
Over all though, I found it a very enjoyable film and one I have no
problem in deeming RECOMMENDED (provided you have no fear of subtitles
My score: 8.4/10
IMDb Score: 7.7/10 (based on 19,910 votes at the time of going to press).
MetaScore: 87/100: (Based on 23 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes 'Tomatometer' Score: 85/100 (based on 111 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes 'Audience' Score: 88/100 'Liked It' (based on 17,600 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
You can find an expanded version of this review on my blog: Thoughts of a SteelMonster.
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