Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Daisuke Tengan
2010 | Japan | R | 141 mins
Takashi Miike, reigning film force behind some of Japan's most impressive, controversial, and even bizarre movies, brings us a remake of Eiichi Kudo's 1963 period-drama Jûsan-nin no shikaku. In 1840s Japan Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu (Gorô Inagaki), the former Shogun's son and current Shogun's brother, uses his untouchable status to maim, kill, and rape to his sadistic pleasure. When a disgraced samurai commits seppuku because of the young Lord's evil deeds, an older samurai Shinzaemon Shimad (Kôji Yakusho) is hired to assassinate Naritsugu.
Upon witnessing a woman whom the Lord had seriously abused as his plaything by cutting off all her limbs and cutting out her tongue Shinzaemon puts together a group of 12 other samurai with varying personalities and skills. Their suicide mission is to ambush Naritsugu on his way back home from Edo by fortifying and booby-trapping a village they have bought out. But Naritsugu surprises them by showing up with over 200 guards when they were expecting only 70.
Under Takashi Miike's taught direction 13 Assassins becomes an epic and engrossing film that harkens back to the work of Kurosawa in its beauty, drama, and destruction, as well as explosive and unexpected like the Lone Wolf and Cub and Zatichi films. Not failing to make sure his stamp is there, Miike makes sure the villain is as vile and reprehensible as can be and even one of the thirteen assassins may not be altogether human.
Production design and art direction are majestically crafted, with sprawling panoramic cinematography and action set-pieces that engage and progress the story and characters, 13 Assassins is a triumph for writer Daisuke Tengan and maverick director Takashi Miike. Able to work in all genres and put out more movies in a year than most directors, this is a staggering accomplishment for Miike. The age of the samurai film isn't waning as Miike moves on to Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai.
All contents copyright 2011 Tyler Baptist