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|Index||123 reviews in total|
*** 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.
13 assassins is a typical Takashi Miike movie with some hints at
Japanese history and mythology. The movie has many stunning scenes that
will stay on your mind for a while. Already the harakiri opening
sequence is quite intense but there is also the scene of a young and
crippled woman begging for vengeance and the scene of a family massacre
that are really touching and maybe hard to watch for some people. On
the other side, there are also some humorous scenes that lighten this
movie up in a good way. The filming, the music and the locations are
also always well chosen.
The movie is clearly divided into two very distinctive parts. The first half introduces a lot of characters and features many dialogues. As in many other Miike movies, it's not always easy to follow what happens to whom and why but it's less difficult than in movies such as "Family" or "Gozu". I watched this movie with a friend from Asia and I'm relieved to see that it wasn't only me as someone who has grown up in a occidental culture who struggled with some parts of the plot. The movie gives some interesting insights at some characters but should have been more precise at some points.
The second half of the movie is a total massacre in a small Japanese village. The movie features many great sword fights, explosions and original traps. For about forty minutes, the movie gives you no time to breathe but it ends on a rather smooth note after all.
In the end, I think that the transition between the two parts of the movie happens too fast and both are redundant at some points. In the first half, there are too many dialogues and it takes some time to get into the movie. The second half starts with a lot of action but doesn't vary very much and get's a little bit redundant as well. The fighting scenes and choreographs are amazing but forty minutes non stop violence gets a little bit boring after a while. I also think that the final scenes of the movie are not touching or intense enough. I might also add that some parts of the original version had been cut for an international release and I would have liked to see them to understand the characters (for example the bandit that seems to represent an immortal ghost spirit as I read later) a little bit better.
On the positive side, the movie has many memorable scenes, a couple of intriguing characters and great images and words directed by one of the Asian's best directors. Any fan of samurai movies should check this film out. It's far away from being a masterpiece but an interesting release you could loan or buy at a cheap price.
Takashi Miike's new samurai film is very much like the classics of old
and, in particular, Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI. There's a slow and
gradual build-up, during which time we're introduced to the titular
characters and one very unpleasant villain, and then one extended,
rip-roaring climax in which an entire village becomes a battleground
for the heroes and the army opposing them.
Viewers expecting more depth than that will be disappointed, as 13 Assassins is very much a straightforward film. There are elements of Miike's perversity in the hideous crimes carried out by his bad guy, Lord Naritsugu, and in a sub-plot involving a forest-dwelling spirit which has been excised for international viewers, but viewers expecting a bloodbath will be disappointed. This is a surprisingly restrained film, at least on a visceral level; there's little focus on blood and guts action, although the sound effects more than makes up for that. Still, the film doesn't need it either: the choreography of the climatic battle is excellent, stylishly putting across the heroism of those involved and the frenetic nature of the running conflict and keeping the momentum and excitement going at all times.
Both script and cast are understated in the best Japanese tradition, and it's rare for one of the good guys to betray emotion. Koji Yakusho, as the elder who forms the team of assassins, holds the film together with a performance of genuine gravitas. Goru Inagaki's villain is truly a man who deserves to die, thus setting up a story in which the suspense never dies down, instead building until the fittingly epic-feeling climax. There's a danger of 13 ASSASSINS getting lost amid the dozens of similar historical adventure films coming out of Asia at the moment, but that would be a shame as it's a rousing, old-fashioned film in the best sense.
13 Assassins is about a group of unneeded Samurai, due to the arrival
of guns from the west, that are put on a special mission and rise to
the occasion despite their inexperience.
What Slices; 1) The acting swings well 2) The story chops sharply 3) The directing is a stab through the heart.
What Decapitates; 1) Confusion.
For me 13 was enjoyable overall. If you enjoying a good Japanese fighting flick, that you will like this but it takes effort to get over the beginning. Have no fear though you will be well rewarded in the end. To enjoy it more I recommend watching it on as big and bright and high quality a TV as possible, since the dark colors are part of the reason I was confused (every character wore similar outfits and I couldn't tell the actors apart).
Also drink an energy drink and take a nap before hand because you will need to be super focused to catch the wave in the beginning.
So those of you familiar with Takashi Miike probably know of him for
some of his more over the top movies like Ichi the Killer and Audition.
This was the first movie of his I have seen that takes on a more
traditional story line and he does a excellent job.
If you have seen, Kurosowa's Seven Samurai, or the American remake, The Magnificent Seven then you already know what goings on here. 13 Assassins come together to face off against an evil Lord and impossible odds.
This movie is not really bringing anything new to the table but it is still a really enjoyable watch, and filled with lots of action. If you are fan of this genre then don't miss this film.
It should just be said right now that there is a 40 minute long action
sequence that closes Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins, and if you can just
sit through the film for that alone, it's totally worth it. Luckily,
there are still more reasons than just that to catch this samurai epic.
The whole film is greatly directed; the action sequences are both comprehensible and thrilling and the work before that is equally as impressive. The cinematography by Nobuyasu Kita captures the sweeping grandness of the story and it's certainly clear why these assassins are so passionate to kill this villain. It's full of typical samurai thematics such as honor and bravery, while also accenting the struggle to respect the declining samurai genre directly through the characters who also try to honor the brethren with who they once stood with. It manages that, to a point, though it lacks the depth of a Kurosawa film and might have too many characters to ever get invested in any of them. But as a purely enjoyable action film, those last 40 minutes and the final denouement sequence will leave you breathless. B-
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