Release Date: 2010
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Kaneo Ikegami, Daisuke Tengan
Actors: Koji Yakusho (Shinzaemon Shimada), Takayuki Yamada (Shinrokuro Shimada), Yusuke Iseya (Koyata Kiga)
I’m not a massive Samurai film lover. I’ve seen a select few and, if I’m honest they’ve all been fantastic pieces of work and been great in terms of entertainment, but I don’t tend to go out of my way to watch them. HOWEVER I will always ALWAYS make an exception for 13 Assassins by Takashi Miike. Without a doubt, it is one of THE best Samurai films I’ve ever seen!
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. Shinazaemon Shimada is summoned by the Shogun’s advisor to listen to the story of Makino Uneme, whose son and daughter-in-law have been murdered by the evil Lord Naritsugu. Sir Doi introduces Shimada to a young woman whose arms, legs and tongue have been severed by Naritsugu. Using her mouth, she writes a request to Shimada to slaughter Naritsugu. He is more than happy to comply.
Shimada gathers 11 of the best Samurai to help with his plan. Unfortunately, Samurai Hanbei Kitou, who is responsible for the security of the evil Lord, hears of Shimada’s intent and gathers an army against them. Whilst taking his Samurai through the mountains towards ‘the village’ they find the hunter Koyata who helps them through the mountains and joins the 12 Samurai. The 13 men begin preparing to ambush Naritsugu and his army of 200 Samurai on their quest to stop the Lord’s barbaric plot.
The first hour and a half bit is a slight slow burner, but it’s worth it because the plot is tight! The story is easy to follow and you are aware from the beginning of what’s going to happen in the film. You’re aware that there is going to be an obvious trap, yet you cannot predict how this trap is going to pan out. In other words, you think you know how it’s going to end, but I already know you’ll have gotten it all wrong!
The acting is superb. Some of the best acting I’ve seen in film. It’s all pretty believable and you do become emotionally involved with the characters. Goro Inagaki is sublime as our film villain Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira. He is completely vicious and horrible without being over the top with his acting. He has an eerie calm to him, and yet he descends to complete evil barbaric madness. All the actors act their part with such sincerity. There so much honest and raw emotion in their performances that I only wish we learnt a bit more about their characters. This film focuses a lot on plot rather than character background and often sidelines how each one develops. Some are simply there to fight. Even though you know very little about them, however, you’re still rooting for them throughout the whole film. I found myself emotionally invested with some of the characters and their relationships with each other.
The last 45 minutes of 13 Assassins are like nothing I’ve ever seen in any Hollywood film before. The fight scenes are filmed incredibly well and are very well thought out, the choreography is on point with each fight. A scene that stands out for me is the scene when two of our Samurai fighters trap the Lords lackeys, surrounded by Samurai swords. I’m not going to go further with this as I do not want to ruin one of the best scenes in the film for any of you! I’ll only say this – if you liked the ‘Crazy 88’ fight scene in Kill Bill, then you will fall in love with the fighting in 13 Assassins. There are very intense action scenes throughout and some of the best I’ve seen – ever. The film take its violent baby steps straight from the off, often shocking and unexpected, however it’s a Takashi Miike, you should always expect a punch or two!
The use of limited lighting and colour sets the dark tone the film wants to offer. You will not be seeing any vibrancy or happy positive colours in this film. The cinematography is beautiful and the costumes and sets are remarkable to say the least. Scenes set in ‘The Village’ look absolutely incredible!
Watch It! Beautiful scenes, amazing acting and one of the best 45 minutes you’ll ever experience in film, 13 Assassins is a film I cannot recommend enough! Takashi Miike is known as a renowned cult Japanese director and is arguably one of THE hardest working directors around. He has tackled many different genres, all of which are some of the best films I’ve ever seen. He is known for bringing out some very ultra violent, controversial films such as Ichi the Killer (review coming soon), Audition (AMAZING!!) and *shivers* Visitor Q (a film that haunts me, honestly DO NOT WATCH IT). It’s safe to say that 13 Assassins is one of his great masterpieces and is easily one of his best works! The Master strikes again!