In 1844, the peace of Feudal Japan is threatened by cruel Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira, who is politically rising and getting closer to his half-brother, the shogun. After the harakiri of the Namiya clan leader, samurai Shinzaemon Shimada is summoned by the shogun's advisor Sir Doi of the Akashi Clan to listen to the tragedy of Makino Uneme, whose son and daughter-in-law have been murdered by Naritsugu. Then Sir Doi shows a woman with arms, legs and tongue severed by Naritsugu and she writes with her forearm a request to Shinza to slaughter Naritsugu and his samurai. Shinza promises to kill Naritsugu and he gathers eleven other samurais and plots a plan to attack Naritsugu in his trip back to the Akashi land. But the cunning samurai Hanbei Kitou that is responsible for the security of his master foresees Shinza's intent. Shinza decides to go with his samurai through the mountain, where they find the hunter Koyata that guides them off the mountain and joins the group. Now the thirteen men...Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The 13 assassins plan to attack Matsudaira Naritsugu while his journeying to Edo (the old name for Tokyo). In the Edo period the lords of Japan had to travel and stay in Edo. This was called Sankin-kotai, or official journey. The lords stayed to show their loyalty to the shogun and the system helped the shogun keep tabs on the lords. See more »
The runtime of the Japanese release is 141 minutes, for but the international distribution a reduced cut of 126 minutes was released, which among other things omits some scenes referring to Japanese mythology (such as several scenes which indicate that the hunter Koyata is not of human flesh, but a demon). See more »
I'm a huge fan of Takashi Miike, so I was very excited to be able to attend a sneak peek of his latest film. Miike's one of those directors who seems to be trying to make at least one film in every style, and this latest is his foray into the classic "samurai avenging injustices" genre. Only, we all know by now that Miike's style is anything but "classic." He always manages to find a way to infuse his own unique, warped imprint into everything he touches. Especially since he insists on making the most bizarre cameos possible in all the films he directs. They are always really fun to watch for.
So, this film is great. It starts off just as slowly as any of these old period pieces set in feudal era Japan, but it quickly descends into pure mayhem and madness. Shinzaemon is a retired samurai, but he is prompted back into action when he learns that the Shogun's "adopted" (code for bastard) son, Lord Naritsugu, has been terrorizing peasants. He's been killing and mutilating men, women and children all throughout the land, and all with the most cold- hearted, disinterested cruelty. So Shinzaemon decides to assemble a band of other idle samurai to hunt this despot down and assassinate him. Those would be the thirteen assassins that give this film its title. And they really are a very mismatched band of warriors. And these men are caricatures—each outrageous in his own way.
The one thing I really love about Takashi Miike's style is that he's never afraid to just go for it. He's got no shame, and absolutely no restraint. I think this is because he has a deep-rooted sense of humor (albeit a very dark one). It's an ability to identify and appreciate the absurdity in life. Miike's films have a reputation for being pretty violent and bloody (and this one is certainly no exception). But they are also incredibly funny. The gore is certainly meant to shock, but I don't think it's just for the sake of a cheap thrill. I think it's meant to throw us of balance. His work is horrifying where we expect delicacy, and actually quite subtle where viewers typically expect to find vulgarity. Of course, we can always count on Miike for some truly silly stunts too. The result is audiences that are quite delighted and amused, even after witnessing all the horror and disfigurement and devastation. Those moments are upsetting and heartbreaking, for sure. But, Miike really understands how a film should flow, and balances these difficult scenes with the right dose of irreverence. He's a true master, and this film is a roaring success.
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