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13 Assassins

A movie directed by Takashi Miike

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Takashi Miike remakes a somewhat obscure 1960's samurai film and strikes gold with his re-imagining.

  • Aug 22, 2011
**** 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 didn't expect to like the characters this much. I didn't expect such complexity in a samurai film. I thought films like this one were long gone, but I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Miike, a master of the shocking and even the compelling, has brought back what it means to be a kick-ass samurai epic. He has made one of the best films of the year; a lengthy, entertaining, unforgettable work of extreme spectacle and even more note-worthy dramatic depth.

Oh, where do I begin with this one? I suppose as I normally do; with the story, and the basics of it at that. Film takes place in 1830's Japan, when Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu still tortured, killed, humiliated, and raped at will. He was a proud sadist; hated and feared by many, and shamelessly violent. He is untouchable due to his status as the former Shogun's son, and the current Shogun's brother. If Naritsugu rises on a political level, to a higher status, the situation will get even worse. This is why Shimada Shinzaemon, a samurai with some considerable experience, is secretly hired to assassinate the Lord.

He cannot do this job alone, and this is why he gathers eleven assassins to assist him and form a team of killers. The assassins plan their assault on the Lord and his very own army. They travel to towns in hopes of uniting with the folk. In such travels, they gain themselves a new ally; who assists them in battle, thus making him the thirteenth assassin of the group.

The scenes with the characters planning and training are hypnotic. And they should be; nobody wants to watch uninvolving character development. I suppose "13 Assassins" is different from most of its kind because its characters are important, crucial story elements; and we care about most of them, and detest the villain of the tale. It's quite interesting. Quite interesting indeed.

I mentioned a climactic battle sequence; and it's one that might as well serve as a character in itself. This is strange; but it has so much personality and ferocity. Miike makes good use of build-up to lead up to this sequence; which acts as our personal reward for sticking with the film as long as we have. I watch plenty of action movies hoping for one that doesn't stick to formula, clichés, and a boring-ass plot. A filmmaker has finally answered my call, and I've never been so glad to say that it was Miike.

The big battle is explosive; literally. There's plenty of brutal stabbing, slashings, beheadings; the good stuff. It's what you'd expect out of a film like this and more. However, I expected more CGI; since that seems to be what every filmmaker nowadays resorts to in action filmmaking. Apparently, Miike wanted to make a traditional samurai flick, with some computer-generated-imagery; but the kind that doesn't stand out and distract the audience. This is good, because I like a good traditionally-made action picture. "13 Assassins" is fun, electrifying, and undeniably awesome; but it's also much more, and I've mentioned what makes it so great already.

Hollywood should take note of what Miike has achieved here. He has made a true action film; a wild samurai flick. It has the look and feel of an epic, complete with intriguing and interesting production design. Those who have seen, and who have loved past samurai epics will certainly appreciate this modernized attempt at the genre. It's a hit-or-a-miss for some, I suppose. Not everyone will love Miike's film, but I did. This is a bleak, bland, disappointing year full of loud action and excessively crude exploitation. We can have fun whilst being intelligent and deep. Here's a movie that understands the rules, the borders, and what the audience really wants. "13 Assassins" is violent and stylish, but it never forgets to be a bloody good time too.

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More 13 Assassins reviews
review by . May 16, 2011
posted in ASIANatomy
Takashi Miike's Remake of The 1963 Samurai Classic Film is Spectacular!!
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 …
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 . 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 …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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