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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.07.10] movie review action

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[Editor's Note: Also be sure to check out rochefort's equally praising review of the film from Fantastic Fest.]

Year: 2010
Director: Takashi Miike
Writers: Kaneo Ikegami, Takashi Miike
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 8 out of 10

The prolific Takashi Miike tends to be hit or miss. When he’s firing on all cylinders, his work is spectacular and when he’s missing, the films are still spectacular but there’s a whole lot more head scratching going on (God’s Puzzle anyone? Bueller?) His most recent, the samurai action drama 13 Assassins, isn’t just Miike firing on all cylinders. It’s Miike firing all cylinders and then blowing up the gun to prove a point: that he too can direct a samurai film, one that follows some of what we’ve come to expect of samurai films while still delivering a film that is very much a Miike original.

A remake of a 60s genre film, 13 Assassins is set years before the overthrow of the shogunate. The arrogant, sick and depraved Lord Naritsugu has to be stopped and the council of elders approaches retired samurai Shinzaemon with the task of making Naritsugu disappear while on a trip to Akashi. Shinzaemon takes a little convincing but when he sees the cruelty Naritsugu is capable of (a haunting scene featuring one of the most terrorizing images I’ve seen all year), there is no turning back. In Seven Samurai style, Shinzaemon sets off to put together a team of professionals to get the job done and for the next hour, we are introduced to the players, the men, boy and peasant, who make up the titular team. We see their training, the planning the waiting and eventually, the execution of the plan: to turn a local village into a death trap for Naritsugu and his men.


What follows the set up is 60 minutes of glorious action ranging from the awesome (sliding gates to block the road) to the insane (flaming wild boar attack) and culminating into a memorable showdown between the master Shinzaemon (played coolly by Kôji Yakusho) and the crazy Naritsugu who is brilliantly brought to life by Gorô Inagaki in the thankless role of playing the generally despised, morally corrupt Lord whose only interest is adventure (at any cost).

Though rather conventional, Miike infuses the film with personal touches, the most noteworthy being the previously mentioned limbless woman whose agony is physically rendered in such a fashion that the image is still with me days after seeing the film. More serious than Miike’s recent films, 13 Assassins is also not void of comedy and the moments, many at the hands of Koyata, the ragtag peasant who leads the lost assassins through the forest, are priceless (“Are you immortal?”).

Genre fans might be turned off by the first half of the film which is mostly devoid of action outside of Naritsugu’s violence (but oh what violence it is) but Miike more than makes up for it with the second half of the film. As much as I enjoyed 13 Assassins, so far one of my favourite films of the year, I did get a bit bored by the long winded, non-stop action sequence which populates most of the second half of the film and would have preferred a more even distribution of action but Miike handles and marries both parts of the film, the drama and action, beautifully while also managing to carry the serious tone developed in the first half, though the entire film.

At the end of the day, Miike’s 13 Assassins is a highly enjoyable genre film which is undoubtedly one of the best of the year.



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bill (4 years ago) Reply

This goes straight to the top of the list of my must-see movies this year.

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John (3 years ago) Reply

Genre fans who are turned off by the first half of the movie, are not genre fans at all, but retarded bloodthirsty fetishist idiots.
If one knows anything about the genre, the first half is what it is all about, second part is what happens when the water boils, and a few good men unite.


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