Review by Tim Carson
The new film by cult Japanese director Takeshi Miike is a blast. A no-holds barred swash-buckling epic of a samurai movie that shows why so many westerns are so closely linked with classic Japanese samurai films.
13 Assassins is a classic men-on-a-mission movie comparable with anything from Inglorious Bastards to The Magnificent Seven and, of course, the Seven Samurai on which it was based.
Set at the end of Japan’s feudal era the film tells the story of a group of unemployed samurai who 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.
The first part of the film paints a vivd picture of just how evil Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira is as he rapes and pillages at will. Meanwhile Sir Doi, an advisor to the Shogun, plots to end his bloody rise and begins to assemble the samurai to assassinate him. It’s tidily done and sets the scene perfectly.
However, the film is really all about the climactic battle between the samurai and Lord Naritsugu and his warriors. And a mighty impressive battle it is. Outnumbered 13 to 1 the samurai fortify a remote village and wait for Lord Naritsugu. What follows is one of the most exciting and brutal encounters ever put on film. The sword fights are beautifully choreographed and the boobytraps deliciously intricate and spectacular.
The only downside being that with 13 samurai to choreograph into the battle some of the lesser lights are dispatched rather too quickly.
With such a large main cast it’s more difficult for people stand out but Kôji Yakusho leads the group a quiet dignity and Yusuke Iseya as the wildman from the forest brings some welcome humour to proceedings.
While hardly original or surprising 13 Assassins does tackle a fairly recognisable tale with great gusto and panache and thoroughly entertains and grips from start to finish. Well worth seeing for the epic finale alone.
Running time: 126mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: September 5, 2011