30 March 2019

Review: 13 Assassins (2010)

From Japan's most prolific director Takeshi Miike, best known in the West for his classic romantic torture tale Audition (1999), 13 Assassins  is essentially a remake of Eiichi Kudo's 1963 actioner. Miike's film brought the samurai film back to the screen in style back in 2010.

In Nineteenth Century Japan, the age of the samurai is fading. Out-of-control Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu rapes and kills without conscience or mercy. No one can intervene as he is the former Shogun's son and current Shogun's younger brother. After a party wronged by Naritsugu publicly commits seppuku, a trusted older samurai, Shinzaemon, is secretly hired to assassinate him.

The first half of the film slowly builds as Shinzaemon gathers together band of eleven samurai to undertake the assassination. Preparations, training and planning unfold at a measured pace building up to the start of the mission.

Several of the assassins are sent to acquire the help of a town to block Naritsugu's passage in order to force his route to their advantage. While the remaining samurai travel to the town they encounter a hunter who helps them navigate their way when they become lost, and becomes the thirteenth assassin.

When Naritsugu arrives at the town with an escort of over two hundred bodyguards, as opposed to the seventy the assassins were expecting, a running battle erupts through the city streets.

This final forty-five minute battle sequence is where Miike really excels. Bloody and brilliantly staged, the action does not let up until there are just two men left standing.

Fans of Kurosawa and the classic Lone Wolf and Cub series will find much to enjoy in 13 Assassins, while fans of Miike get to see the director claim yet another genre for his own.
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