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13 Assassins

A movie directed by Takashi Miike

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Takashi Miike's Remake of The 1963 Samurai Classic Film is Spectacular!!

  • May 16, 2011
Sometimes it is hard to get access to the San Francisco International Film Festival, but I made a supreme effort to do so since this year, it is including one of my favorite film genres. Those who know me know that I am a huge fan of samurai films; both modern and classic ones. I am also a fan of Japanese director Takashi Miike, the acclaimed director of “Audition”, “Gozu and “Ichi The Killer”. Miike is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite directors that he joined him in “Sukiyaki Western Django” (get the uncut extended Japanese version please). I’ve always said that he may well be Japan’s most versatile if not one of its most prolific directors; he is known internationally as a horror master (showed up everyone in Showtime’s “Masters of Horror” series with Imprint ), but those who don’t know him well will be surprised to learn that he is actually more popular in Japan for his family films (Great Yokai War) and weird super-hero comedy spoofs like “Zebra Man”.

When I heard Takashi Miike was doing a samurai film (jidai geki) called “13 Assassins”, I was both ecstatic and at the same time quite curious how he would pull off a remake of a 1963 classic by Eiichi Kudo. Ok, admittedly, I was also a bit concerned since I wasn’t too impressed with his fantasy “Izo”; Miike just takes supreme delight in depicting on-screen suffering. But surprisingly, Miike keeps to the style that has made him one of Japan’s most acclaimed directors while channeling the works of classic chambara films Kobayashi, Okamoto and Imai. Like the Coen brothers’ “True Grit” he may have improved and surpassed the original.

                       Masachika Ichimura as Hanbei Kitou and Koji Yakusho as Shinzaemon Shimada in ``13 Assassins.''

                      Mikijiro Hira as Sir Doi and Koji Yakusho as Shinzaemon Shimada in ``13 Assassins.''

During the last years of the Bushido era, a cruel and vicious lord called Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki) is about to ascend to a higher position in his brother’s Shogunate council. Naritsugu is a ruthless, uncaring, selfish lord of the Asashi clan, his deeds have humiliated his subjects as he sees them as mere tools for his amusement. His supposed new appointment in the shogun’s council disturbs many, and a hardened former retainer of the shogun named Shinzaemon Shimada (Koji Yakusho) is called to take steps to make certain that he does not ascend to the shogun’s council since it would mean strife and war. Shinzaemon soon puts together a small group of other 11 hardened samurai warriors and a feral peasant hunter to take down the monster. But a horde of samurai soldiers led by Shimada’s old companion stand in their way….

Miike seems to be a little restrained in his execution of this 1963 remake. His signature arterial sprays and over-the-top violence has been set aside to favor a more traditional piece of a jidai geki piece. Somewhat based on a real event, Miike channels the sensibilities of a classic samurai film, and he allows the characters and story to drive the pacing and the story. As with the original, Miike’s film has the themes of blind loyalty and working to serve the honorable need even though this may come at a great cost. He goes into the politics during this time, and how certain authority figures can be so corrupt that all they care about are themselves and what suits them.

                   A scene from ``13 Assassins.''

                  A scene from ``13 Assassins.''

“13 Assassins” is made up of a lot of characters, different locations and may take a considerable effort to keep up with the story. It takes a lot of effort to introduce the seemingly endless wave of characters, but Miike’s direction never loses its ground. I was impressed how he managed to keep his focus amid the collection of names and the seemingly endless scenes of planning as Shimada tries to outmaneuver the other. The screenplay also keeps a solidarity as to allow the characters and their backgrounds to sink into the viewer. Miike keeps his strategy quite simple, he allows the characters’ actions and even their mannerisms and relationships amid themselves speak. After Naritsugu’s cruel deeds have been established (includes the cold murder of children and rape of women) Miike allows the film to relax and build on his characters. Their scenes of bonding made them easier to relate to, and Miike remembers to add a few scenes of subtle humor.

                       A scene from ``13 Assassins.''

                       Yusuke Iseya as Koyata and Takayuki Yamada as Shinrouko in ``13 Assassins.''

                      Masachika Ichimura as Hanbei Kitou and Koji Yakusho as Shinzaemon Shimada in ``13 Assassins.''

Of course, “13 Assassins” has a climactic battle sequence where 13 men take on Lord Naritsugu’s army. Many would say that it is nigh impossible, but remember there is a huge difference between a hardened warrior and a soldier. The manner with which the 13 samurai execute their final goal was nothing short of impressive and a display of courageous determination. In some ways, it reminded me of “Seven Samurai”, albeit Miike doesn’t exactly hold back on the brutality and violent nature in action scenes as he milks every last scene during its last 35 minutes of struggle (I even smiled when Miike did a very subtle segment of pure blood splatter). The samurai led by Shimada have their own different style and their personalities show in the manner they fight. It is to Miike’s credit that he made the scenes very believable and dramatic; I was left to root for their cause and I felt their pain during the encounter.

“13 Assassins” may be one of Takashi Miike’s best films to date. It is a tribute to the classic samurai films of yesteryear. It has enough realistic action to satisfy modern fans and enough careful direction to satisfy the Jidai Geki fan. The finale is one wild ride filled with a lot of slicing, dicing and dismembering that channels the horrors of combat. The film is a fine depiction as to how tenacious the righteous man can be…

“The Greatest Evil is When Good Men Do Nothing In the Face of Evil…”

Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

This Film is Set to be released as a Limited Nationwide Release May 20, 2011

Poster art for "13 Assassins." Poster art for "13 Assassins."

Takashi Miike's Remake of The 1963 Samurai Classic Film is Spectacular!! Takashi Miike's Remake of The 1963 Samurai Classic Film is Spectacular!! Takashi Miike's Remake of The 1963 Samurai Classic Film is Spectacular!!

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September 08, 2011
Gosh, I didn't know this was a remake. Surprisingly, this actually made it's way to our local multiplex just about a month before the official dvd release. I tried my hardest to go & catch it live but to no avail. They only kept the film a week & then there were only two screenings per day. Bummer. I just caught Hobo With A Shotgun last week so I am going to try & watch this next. You seen Sono's new film Cold Fish yet?
September 09, 2011
I really liked this film. I have to admit, this may be one of Miike's best movies recently. "Cold Fish" is on my shelf, just haven't watched too many films of late before and after my vacay... :(
September 09, 2011
I will plan on watching this one soon. Well, that & Cold Fish are my two in line. I also keep hearing great things about Dream Home. Are you familiar at all with that one? Supposedly, it's very funny & beautifully filmed but yet dark as well as brutal. My kinda flick. Hehe
September 09, 2011
"Dream Home" is on the top of my list of things to see. Tell you the truth, I have a lot of catching up to do, I am so behind these days because of the things I had to deal with.
June 08, 2011
I love Samurai films. The culture and philosophy fascinates me. Congrats on making it to the SF International Film Festival. I bet it was a lot of fun!
June 10, 2011
it was. sadly I only made it to 2 films (my friend let me inside since he was one of the volunteers)
June 10, 2011
Aw! Well, two films are better than none! That must have been a lot of fun. :)
May 24, 2011
Oh, I love me some Takashi Miike! Had no idea that he was doing this remake. Thanks for the heads up!
May 24, 2011
anytime, Devora....you know after the huge tsunami in Japan, I immediately thought of Miike...I thought: "I hope he's ok".
May 19, 2011
Excellent review! Although I have little interest in samurai films I have to admit this one does look quite tempting. I might just give it a look,
May 19, 2011
Just give it a chance. If you are not into samurai movies, then perhaps you'd like to begin with some of the classics like "Yojimbo" Sanjuro", Hara-Kiri" and "Samurai Rebellion"? Thanks for the read, buddy!
May 17, 2011
surpassed the original, plus it is Miike, I must own.
May 17, 2011
for a Miike fan this is a must. Thanks for checking out my reviews on the other Miike flicks, Alex. Btw, have you seen his "Crows Zero"?
May 16, 2011
Okay, this I definitely have to see! Not only do you describe it as one of Miike's best films, but I can tell just how pumped up this got you just by your first paragraph. I've been in the mood for a good action flick and this looks like what the doctor ordered.
May 16, 2011
Yes, you do. I was telling Jay that I loved the way he channeled classic samurai films and he still had some of the Miike nihilistic touch but it was very subtle. It did get me pumped and took me a while to get my thoughts on paper. Btw, you should add "Priest" to two of your communities...
May 16, 2011
Yeah, I do need to do that. I'm not expecting many positive reviews for it though. LOL!
May 16, 2011
we have one positive in Movie Hype...nicely written too I have to say. Mine was negative, albeit a bit nicer....because of Maggie Q
May 16, 2011
By the way, Beyond the Printed Page should know show up under the "entertainment" category. It seemed the best choice since it wasn't media specific.
May 16, 2011
Ok, I noticed you ignored my Maggie Q attempt on humor...LOL!

May 16, 2011
Didn't realize that was intended as humor. LOL! Am I the only one sick of Nikita rehashes?
May 16, 2011
I was too..until Maggie Q. took the premise on....LOL!
May 16, 2011
First came Luc Besson's 1990 film "La Femme Nikita", then came the 1991 Chinese remake "Black Cat", then came the American remake "Point of No Return" in 1993, then came the 1997-2001 TV series "La Femme Nikita" and now "Nikita" a 2010 series. Yep, I'm all Nikita-ed out.
May 16, 2011
I can see that and I agree...but I will never be all Maggie Q'ued out LMAO!
More 13 Assassins reviews
review by . February 26, 2012
It’s the old, old story…a small group of men we come to know are willing to die for a noble cause, and die they do, fighting against the odds, sacrificing themselves for honor and justice. Just as we probably wouldn’t do. They still make us tear up. Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins owes much to the story of the 47 ronin. The story still works, whether it’s the 47 ronin, those seven samurai or Robert Taylor and his 13 buddies on Bataan.       Look …
review by . August 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     You can't have an epic battle sequence accounting for more than twenty minutes of a film's running-time if you don't have believable characters built up and a story to tell, or better yet, one that was told in the moments before the grand finale. Takashi Miike's "13 Assassins" has a great prolonged action sequence that sends the film on its merry way, but the big surprise that I was greeted with was what came attached and before.    I …
review by . June 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
15 - 141mins - Action/Adventure/Drama - 6th May 2011   Being the film buff that I like to pretend I am, I am still yet to see Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai- a work that has supposedly spawned many films since and is widely regarded as one of the first films to introduce plot structures such as recruiting a group of characters to to accomplish a specific goal and having a main hero undertake a task unrelated to the main plot. 13 Assassins leans on this movie which it has clearly been …
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Please "Like" Film and Movies and Keep the Economy strong....LOL!!      My Interests: Movies, Anime, History, Martial Arts, Comics, Entertainment,Cooking, Things I don't … more
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