|More Than Just An Amazing Ending Action Scene.|
13 Assassins opens with a tone-setting hara-kiri scene, one that features cringe-inducing sound effects and shows great restraint on the part of director Takashi Miike. I cannot say I am versed in the works of Miike, in fact I have never seen any of this movies. I know only what I hear about from his reputation. Miike is the kind of director who values shocking the audience with graphic violence and other tricks rather than making a real connection. This reputation made me stay away from his movies until now.
To say that 13 Assassins shocked me would be an understatement. While this might be what Miike normally goes for with his movies, what’s remarkable about Assassins is how it’s restrained and mature. The violence of the hara-kiri is rightfully left up to the viewer to imagine with the aid of crunching and slicing sound effects and the reaction of the actor. What follows this powerful scene is a rather slow building of the plot that involves an almost comically evil half-brother of the shogun, Naritsugu, who unflinchingly rapes and murders his subjects on a whim. Any one of these scenes would show you just how evil this man is and drive you to root for anyone whose mission is to kill him, but Miike thankfully shows just enough of these scenes without going overboard. The rape of an innocent woman is kept off camera. The brutal killing of her husband when he finds her is also deftly handled off camera. The use of the hara-kiri samurai’s family as archery target practice is more insult to injury. Then comes the most brutal and insane testament to his treachery that I will not spoil here.
The common takeaway from the movie is the amazing 40 minute battle sequence at the end. And believe me, it is an amazing sequence; however, this battle would not be nearly as good if it were not for the first hour and 15 minutes of the movie. In the style of classical Japanese directors like Kurosawa, Miike keeps the camera locked off in dialogue scenes, sparingly using dolly and zoom moves for dramatic emphasis.
While the scant 2-hour runtime doesn’t leave a ton of room for character development, most of the actors manage to deliver enough of a performance to make their character memorable and likeable. At the forefront is the excellent performance by Kôji Yakusho, who portrays the hero Shinzaemon. It helps you understand why Seven Samurai has over a 3 hour runtime. There are still a few of the 13 who are not given much to work with but their goal is enough to push you through and drive you to care for their plight. While the pace is a bit slow early on, every step the main characters make logically leads to the known conclusion established from the beginning. There isn’t any meaningless plotlines or superfluous characters popping in for comic relief. Everything is kept very tight. The Transformers series could learn a few things.
The calm of the first part reaches a crescendo when the swords start swinging and the blood starts flying. The style switches from calm to frantic, but not the irritating shaky-cam style of frantic. The action is kept largely in front of the camera for the audience to enjoy, aside from one particular scene which uses that technique and another interesting one to dramatic effect. The action isn't portrayed in a particularly glorious way either. The heroes are under constant threat, worn down and picked off throughout the battle. The movie even takes the time to portray how exhausted the heroes get as the battle wears on. Cut up and covered in blood and mud, their deaths aren't glorified in a ridiculous manner.
Miike shows a shocking level of restraint throughout the movie, which makes the occasional moment where he revels in the absurd all the more unsettling. The most ridiculous moment comes when an obviously CG herd of oxen charges at enemy soldiers, which might be bad enough but did I mention that their backs are ON FIRE? There’s another minor instance of a waterfall of blood bellowing up from an explosion on the other side of a building. Thankfully, these instances are over quickly and they don’t detract too much from the visceral, raw, and mostly realistic portrayal of the combat.
While it is certainly not up to par with the classics, 13 Assassins is a movie that deserves a watch for anyone remotely interested in samurai movies or action movies in general. It is one of those movies from which I don’t expect many people to take away anything but the final action scene. But for those willing to devote their attention to the film and ignore a few flaws, there’s more than just an action scene with hundreds of deaths. There’s a movie about duty, honor, and most of all, sacrifice, subjects that all the great samurai movies address.
13 Assassins Trailer 2
This Takeshi Miike-directed samurai action film hits North American theaters later this month. Is it just me, or is this decidedly lacking in Miike-brand grossness?
Thirteen Assassins Trailer
Japanese gross-out director Takashi Miike takes the helm on this historical epic about a group of assassins hired to eliminate a corrupt feudal lord against all odds.
|review||The best samurai flick in years. (5 out of 5)||TreyoftheDead|
|review||Review: 13 Assassins (4 out of 5)||TheFantasticFillip|
|review||An awesome samurai movie (5 out of 5)||MrWright|
|review||More Than Just An Amazing Ending Action Scene. (4 out of 5)||Jason_Miami|
|review||A film of two halves, both of them grey. (3 out of 5)||limasol|
|review||13 Assassins (3 out of 5)||OhHiMovie|
|news||2011 Independent Film Festival of Boston: Capsule Reviews||Pope|
|review||A Modern Samurai Film That Lacks the Spirit of the Classics (3 out of 5)||WesleyFenlon|