Friday, May 13, 2011

13 Assassins (2010)

13 Assassins / Jûsan-nin no shikaku (2010)
13 Assassins / Jûsan-nin no shikaku / 十三人の刺客 (2010)

Genre: Action / Adventure
Director: Takashi Miike
Starring:  Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Hiroki Matsukata, Kazuki Namioka, Yûsuke Iseya
Gorô Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijiro Hira
Duration: 126 min.
Rating: 8.5  

A group of unemployed samurai are enlisted to bring down a sadistic lord and prevent him from ascending to the throne and plunging the country into a war-torn future.

13 Assassins is a film from controversial Japanese director Takashi Miike and a remake of the 1963 samurai epic of the same name by Eiichi Kudo.  It premiered in competition at the 2010 Venice Film Festival.

A rare remake that is actually an improvement on the original, Miike stays mostly faithful to the source, especially in the first act, where several scenes and dialogue are shot for shot identical to those in the original film.  Where he deviates is with the addition of a few scenes that serve to establish greater character development.  Most notably Lord Naritsugu whose sadistic nature is shown in much greater detail, painting him more of a villain.  He also rewrites the 13th assassin character into a bad-ass mountain man armed with rocks and slings, rather than the farmer wannabe samurai in the first film, making him considerably more effective and memorable.

As with the original, the best part of this film is the end battle, and what follows is an amazingly directed 45-minute long hack and slash extravaganza.  Knowing his previous work, I was afraid that this would end up being extreme and over the top with ridiculous geysers of CGI blood, flying limbs, and horror movie style deaths, but Miike shows remarkable restraint and keeps the action entirely realistic.  But fear not, there is still plenty of choreographed mayhem, slaughter, and violent close quarter sword fighting.  Also deserving mention, is the spectacularly designed set piece, an intricately fortified and booby trapped village that brings to mind the one used in Ryûhei Kitamura's Azumi.

You never know what you will get with Takashi Miike, he is so prolific and the quality seems to be more often bad than good, but this is easily one of his finest works.  I haven't been excited for a new Miike film for a long time, but after seeing 13 Assassins, I am now eagerly anticipating his next film, a remake of the 1962 Masaki Kobabayshi classic Harakiri, that happens to be premiering at Cannes next week.

13 Assassins / Jûsan-nin no shikaku (2010)

13 Assassins / Jûsan-nin no shikaku (2010)

13 Assassins / Jûsan-nin no shikaku (2010)

13 Assassins / Jûsan-nin no shikaku (2010)

13 Assassins / Jûsan-nin no shikaku (2010)

13 Assassins / Jûsan-nin no shikaku (2010)

13 Assassins / Jûsan-nin no shikaku (2010)

13 Assassins / Jûsan-nin no shikaku (2010)

PS: Blogger now that you are back, please no more of this for a long time.


derek rampersad said...

have this movie, still havent watched it.  maybe ill toss it in now

Hermann Rorschach said...

This movie was REALLY intense.  Just the whole...just the whole thing.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

That's not a bad choice to make, Ip Man is a very good film as well. 

J Kissell said...

Saw this last night. It is absolutely amazing on so many levels. The plot is timelines and seethes with the integrity and duty prescribed by the samurai code, which is can be translated to so many aspects of our world today. Amazing. Simply Amazing.

thenitefalls said...

I never seen the original 13 assassins, but this one looks amazing! I'll have to watch the original first before I see the new one!

Matt S. said...

I was actually thinking about watching this the other day, but decided on Ip Man. Looks like I might have made the wrong choice :/ Great review! 

Michael Parent said...

I'll have to check this one as a Samurai enthusiast it will be in the next films I'll have to buy!

Jason said...

I loved this film so much. It was a much focused Takashi Miike who can deliver great films - Audition, anyone? The film is so well crafted and shows the end of two ways of life whilst delivering a rip-roaring action film!

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