A bloody, violent hugely enjoyable samurai kill-spree that is very much a film of two halves.
A bloody, violent hugely enjoyable samurai kill-spree
that is very much a film of two halves.
Director Takashi Miike is nothing if not
productive. In the last ten years he has made no less than 29 movies. He’s
covered almost every genre with his own unique styling, but it is his more
violent and visceral outings that have always captured the imagination. Films
like Audition (1999) and Ichi The Killer (2001) are both
examples of the macabre approach Miike has. He is not one to shy away from the
dark side. However, with 13 Assassin, while his trademark blood letting is
clearly on display, Miike has reverted to a more classic form of filmmaking.
One which owes more than a mere nod to Akira Kurosawa.
As Japan is
entering an era of peace Lord Naritsugu (Inagaki) allows his sadomasochistic
side to run wild. Happily slaughtering innocent villages just for the sake of
it he manages to anger a fair few people. However, he is brother to the Shogun and
second in line to the ruler making him almost untouchable. Deciding that he has
gone too far a group of unemployed samurai band together to put an end to his
Seven Samurai (1954) has often been re-made or re-imagined, see The Magnificent
Seven (1960) and A Bug’s Life (1998) as two films that draw heavy inspiration
from it, 13 Assassins does so without ever acknowledging it. Instead we are
given a very similar set up, wherein the first half is about recruiting the
group of assassins, they’re all samurai so calling them anything else seems
odd, before facing off against the evil forces lead by Naritsugu.
Indeed the first
half of the film is all very moody and talky before the second half descends
into a delightful full hour-long skirmish in the village of death. There are
some interesting ideals of the Samurai wanting to die honorably while Naritsugu
seems to value life so little, until of course he is faced with his own
mortality, but more than anything this feels like a fun rumble in the bamboo
village. The only problem being that the first hour drags while the second is
its polar opposite.
Miike comes from
a school of classical movie making, meaning there is little CGI on offer here.
What little computer wizardry there is only heightens the otherwise brutally
fluid action. Indeed such is the sheer level of slashing, stabbing, ripping and
killing on offer that by the end the rivers literally run red with blood.
With this in mind
13 Assassins is a thoroughly enjoyable orgy of revenge and gore. The villain is
so evil he makes the Galactic Emperor of Star Wars look like a well-behaved
kitten, the heroes are so morally righteous you wonder if one of them will
start baptizing his colleagues and the action is so relentless it makes Speed
look like a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park. In other words it’s filmmaking
in the broadest sense but thrives as a result.
brilliant swordplay and enough blood to keep Overlook Hotel well stocked for
years to come, 13 Assassins is an example of how to make a fun forgettable