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|Index||118 reviews in total|
All the obligatory elements of samurai lore go into making this one an
essential entry into the canon.
Miike's darker elements have been toned down considerably, although not eradicated entirely, relying on story and action to supply the entertainment rather than shocks.
In fact, apart from the opening few scenes, the film is a largely straight samurai action movie driven by plot, character and scenes, which while always being entirely derivative of the source material, still feels fresh.
The final section of the film certainly delivers on the promise of its set-up. Highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film by acclaimed Japanese director Takashi Miike is about 13
samurais tasked to assassinate an evil Shogun lord before he can sit in
full power and be a tyrant. At the core of this is the samurai code of
obedience vs. doing what you know is right in order to protect the
This is no doubt a great homage to Seven Samurai and I welcome it with both arms wide open. Some characters in this film are very reminiscent of the beloved classic. The first half features how our samurai protagonist, Shinzaemon (Kôji Yakusho), recruits samurais for this mission and planning the assembly. We also see how the Shogun lord (Gorô Inagaki) is painted to be the villain with no redeeming factors whatsoever. Because of his deeds you as a viewer would happily see him die. The build up in the first half is quite slow but it all leads to the epic second half of pure battle. If there is another movie that I can think of with the same plot line aside from Seven Samurai it's got to be 300.
I've only seen 4 films from this director but if I can describe his films I have to say they are collectively "cool." How this film was shot is fantastic. There was an amazing scene where a "sweeping camera" effect was utilized. By the opening shot you just hear voices talking and slowly, with the sweeping motion the subject enters on the far right side of the screen. By the time the sweep finishes he (subject) is on the left side lower frame even if he didn't move at all. This says a lot on how it was thought of because you have to time these things from the dialogue to the camera movement to the positioning of the characters. The photography is clean and orderly and each frame looks very nice. The film is R rated but some of the violence are implied (thank goodness) and wasn't dwelled upon, oddly from a Miike film. When someone does a hacking it is out of frame and the focus is only on the facial reaction of the poor fellow. If it isn't out of frame it is a very quick shot. I have to mention this because there are some films that would really show to you the full out violence. For example, when someone stabs another, they really focus on the stabbing part, making it all gruesome and dramatic and a stomach-turner. Here I find the violence to be just the right mix, without it being too gory and manipulated (or maybe I just watch many gory films and I find this tame in comparison.) Some scenes are very haunting and disturbing though.
The characters are mostly caricatures but I find myself still rooting for them. Their growth didn't come on deep conversations or choices they make but it was really on the battlefield where they exercised strength and bravery. Some aren't given the focus though so as a viewer I got confused on who's who. There was a particularly cool character named Hirayama Kozuro (Tsuyoshi Ihara) who arguably has the greatest shining moment in the film. The guy is pure badass. If you watch this film you know what I am talking about.
This is a good film and very enjoyable to say the least. On top of the great photography the accompanying music does it's job fairly well. It takes you right into the action. I think some may find the first hour boring with all the set up but the pay off is the second-half. If you are looking for a nice samurai film pick this up and wait for the moment where assassin Hirayama takes on some of the evil lord's soldiers. That alone is a great reason to watch.
Takashi Miike has always been a filmmaker for people with particular
tastes. He's best known for massive amounts of blood and insane or
grotesque moments in his films that make you double take and verbally
gasp. Films like Audition, Visitor Q, Ichi the Killer, and Gozu
illustrate this point to disturbing perfection. But there's more to the
Japanese director's repertoire than most expect or even know about. The
man has dabbled in just about every genre; The Happiness of the
Katakuris was a musical, his Black Triad trilogy brought his extreme
violence to the crime genre, he tested the waters of both westerns and
the English language in Sukiyaki Western Django, and he even jumped
head first into the superhero genre with Zebraman. Takashi Miike may be
known for disturbing and violent cinema, but that isn't entirely fair
to a filmmaker who has directed over seventy productions since 1991. It
was only a matter of time before Takashi brought his versatile sense of
filmmaking to samurai epics and 13 Assassins is an incredible place to
13 Assassins is a remake of the 1963 film The Thirteen Assassins. Without actually seeing the original film, this is more of a review of just the film as a standalone feature. What I have read about the comparisons between Takashi's Assassins and the original is pretty astounding. Hollywood remakes tend to make the mistake of remaking films frame by frame with all the same story points and conclusions. It makes the entire process feel like a waste of time. Takashi actually takes ideas from the original film and expresses them in different ways in his remake. This is done by swapping characters in the scene or different camera angles. Wildgrounds posted an article that goes into a bit more detail and it's worth a look. This alone makes 13 Assassins special. It almost completely redefines what a remake can and should be.
This samurai epic is a slow burn meaning it takes quite a while for the action to really get going. At a little over two hours long, 13 Assassins does seem to over explain things. Also there's a fairly large chance you won't be able to remember all of the thirteen assassins; at least by name. Most of the movie is spent gathering the troops and acquiring samurais for their cause. Once all of that is taken care of there's still training to go through, a run-through of their plans, and a lengthy forest sequence. But despite feeling over explanatory, it is still worthwhile and fairly intriguing along the way. That forest sequence does pay off by introducing Koyata (Yûsuke Iseya), who eventually becomes the 13th assassin. The character is an obvious nod to Kikuchiyo (played by Toshiro Mifune) in Seven Samurai. Koyata is quite possibly the most interesting character in the film due to him not actually being human and his similarities to Kikuchiyo make him awesome right from the start.
The last battle is epic in itself. Everything in the film has been building to this. Lasting nearly forty minutes, it's safe to say it pays off. People expecting Takashi's over the top violence will walk away disappointed though. There's one crazy moment in 13 Assassins that comes to mind and a few fairly gory scenes, but it's not up to the standards you're expecting. The violence is strategically placed to mean a bit more once you actually see it and not come off as completely senseless. The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking, as well. Fog plays a pivotal role and the forest, while being hell for the characters on-screen, is a joy to look at.
While I can't compare 13 Assassins to the film it's based on, it did have shades of all of the great samurai movies I have had the pleasure of seeing. It even felt like a new version of Seven Samurai at times without making the mistake of modernizing everything. 13 Assassins does come off as a bit too long for its own good and has the tendency to explain things in too much detail, it is still one of the few films out there that can be considered a true remake. 13 Assassins shows how far Takashi Miike has come as a director while focusing more on the story than the beneficial expectations some have come to anticipate from the director. Despite its flaws, 13 Assassins is one of the best films of the year.
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.
Similar to the western story of 300, 13 Assassins tells the tale of 12
samurai & 1 forest bandit and their elaborate scheme to murder a
sadistic and evil lord, Naritsugu (who you will grow to abhor - Goro
Inagaki does an incredible job of portraying him).
My impression upon the first hour and fifteen minutes of the film were pure brilliance. The film is filled with beautiful imagery that captures the essence of feudal Japan. There is a clear internal conflict within the characters regarding duty, honour, and what is right in a system so tightly dictated by a social code. The first 10-15 minutes of the battle scenes are well choreographed and incredible to watch.
Now, here's where the "blur" part comes in. Typical of a 1 vs. 1000 fight scene, the one-on-one battle scenes are a blur. I watched with some level of confusion of who is who, and what's going on... and at that point, the film slips from sheer brilliance to cliché, reminiscent of 300. And then bam.... it's all done...
I'll need to watch more samurai films to compare, but my overall opinion is the film shines in some scenes, but turns into a chaotic whirlwind more than halfway through... Still a good watch though.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Another year, another film, another new style of film-making from Miike
Takashi. This time, the samurai epic.
So, obviously this film is very similar to that of Kurasawa Akira's 'Seven Samurai'. A samurai is tasked with a mission, and so has to hastily pulled together a crack team of samurai, of different characters, culminating with a epic battle in a small Japanese village. All pretty solid, standard stuff.
This time round it's the pervy weirdo Lord Naritsugu that is the bad guy; ordered to be assassinated by his Shogun half-brother. This leads samurai Shinzaemon to seek out a team to carry out the Shogun's decree, plotting the head him off at a small village. And so goes the first hour of the two hour film.
After preparing for battle, the second hour is then an all-out sword- fest, with the kind of fight scenes that took months of choreographed planning rather than split-second decisions in the face of death. And impressive it is, often exhilarating as the 13 heroes take on over 200 hundred useless henchmen who politely wait to be killed one-by-one.
The first half is not your typical Miike fodder, filmed as any mainstream epic would typically be, but the second half has more of a bloody and violent feel that you would more expect. Serious moments can appear a little comical in places perhaps one of Miike's flaws, hindering from being as revered as his peers and there is little real character development here among the 13 titular roles. Unlike 'Seven Samurai' where the team is considered and thoughtfully put together, here samurai appear here and there, and little is known of them bar their name, with Miike preferring the audience to enjoy their bloody demise rather than create any empathy for them.
But like many of his films before, while all are different is style and content, they all have that little element that makes them typically Miike; mixing both comedy-violence and a sense of disbelief at what you have just seen. While neither his best, nor the best samurai epic ever filmed, it is a joy to see that Miike can make a more serious, accessible film after many years and an extended filmography of gore.
A slow buildup of characters and themes explodes into a finale that is
both intense and thought-provoking beyond belief.
The Good: The most intense acting you'll find in a foreign film, ingenious and amazing (and spectacular and ridiculous, etc.) finale, A beautiful and in-depth look into the culture of Feudal Japan, brief comedic departures are perfect, Cinematography was gorgeous
The Bad: Slow Buildup is interesting but doesn't captivate, takes a little bit of film time to truly comprehend the gravity of the situation (especially when subtitled)
It's a glorious documentary about the interesting culture of Japan and at the same time is a rock-em, sock-em action movie with stellar acting that truly is intense.
4 1/2 Stars
After a history of feudal violence, peace finally reigns over Japan,
but the calm is threatened by the growing power of the Shogun's
sadistic half-brother Lord Naritsugu (Gorô Inagaki), who rapes and
murders at will, his evil deeds hushed up by the authorities. Shogunate
adviser Sir Doi (Mikijirô Hira) recognises the danger that Naritsugu
poses and hires samurai Shinzaemon (Kôji Yakusho) to assemble a team of
assassins to take care of the problem.
Prolific director Takashi Miike is best known for his bizarre and gory cult movies, including shocking horror Audition, ultra-violent live-action manga Ichi the Killer, and taboo-busting familial drama Visitor Q; for 13 Assassins, he turns his hand to the classical samurai genre, delivering a two-hour-plus epic of two very distinct halves.
The first half establishes the plot and introduces its characters; the pacing is slow and deliberate with lots of dialogue. Fans of the director's more uninhibited movies might find the going a little tough at times, although Miike does at least see fit to include a couple of typically warped scenes amidst the chit-chat (Naritsugu using a defenceless family for target practise, and a limbless woman with her tongue removedanother victim of Naritsugu's perverted wayswrithing helplessly on the floor).
The latter half of the film picks up the pace, as the seriously outnumbered samurai prepare booby traps for the enemy in a village, using the element of surprise to help them cut a swathe through countless soldiers in order to complete their mission. The violence is well choreographed and energetic, but with the final battle consisting of 40 minutes or more of non-stop sword-slashing, and the graphic gore kept to a minimum, I found it to be a little on the repetitive side. As unrealistic as it might be, I would have preferred to have seen Miike employ some old-school Lone Wolf and Cub-style arterial spray and a variety of severed appendages to prevent monotony from setting in.
6.5 out of 10, rounded up to 7 for IMDb. Not at all bad, but a little too conventional to be amongst my favourite Miike movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Some of the reviewers compare this movie to the Seven Samurai of Kurosawa, but I don't know what movie they were watching. Yeah, like comparing Apocalypse Now to Kickboxer 4. Kurosawa's masterwork had a plot in this universe, a continuous plot that had logical elements built on top of each other. The 13 Assassin is a lot less convincing movie with serious logical glitches and holes. Is it a part of some post- postmodern reading that I didn't get? What is the point of someone dead being revived just add some stupid sentences into his mouth? The Lazarus coming back had his throat cut some 20 minutes earlier... This movie had everything subjugated (logic, reality) so that it could show scenes the director held important. The ending scene, the flowing blood from the rooftop out of nothing, not killing the prince because he has to be left last so we can have the "great revenge scene", all this is a part of a great fan-service. I'm still waiting for the review that explains all this and maybe I'll see the movie with a different eye, but sadly most of our reviewers rejoice the gore and the action, saying this is a masterpiece and caring not about plot continuity or logic.
I found myself struggling to get through the first hour of 13
Assassins. Through that point the film appears to be a workmanlike
Seven Samurai retread, well-constructed but not especially interesting.
And then the other part of the movie strikes: an hour-long siege battle
that's both an orgy of violence and a cinematic masterwork, ebbing and
flowing with the kinetic, creative energy that Miike has become known
for. It's a breathtaking sequence that manages to capture the thrill of
battle as well as the horror of it, a line few films have managed to
In the end, I'm not sure if I can describe 13 Assassins as a good film. The characters are paper-thin and the plot isn't much better, but at least the first half of the movie expects us to care deeply about these things. It's only once it plunges into full-on spectacle that it becomes great. But that final battle is more striking than anything a lot of films with deeper stories. I wish Miike would have dispatched with the pretenses a little earlier, because as bloody fun 13 Assassins is thoroughly satisfying.
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