Genre: Action / AdventureDirector: Takashi Miike
Starring: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Hiroki Matsukata, Kazuki Namioka, Yûsuke Iseya
Gorô Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijiro Hira
Duration: 126 min.
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.
|PS: Blogger now that you are back, please no more of this for a long time.|