Someone’s clearly over-compensating …

Theatrical Release Date: 06/03/2011
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yûsuke Iseya, Gorô Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijiro Hira, Hiroki Matsukata, Ikki Sawamura, Arata Furuta, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Masataka Kubota, Sosuke Takaoka, Seiji Rokkaku, Yûma Ishigaki, Kôen Kondô, Ikki Namioka
Rated: R for sequences of bloody violence, some disturbing images and brief nudity.
Runtime: 2 hours, 6 minutes


Trees make me so angry!

Aside from one rather eerie scene and the sound design on a character performing harakiri, it’s a little surprising that Takashi Miike is the director at the helm of “13 Assassins”, which is a remake of Elichi Kudo’s 1963 film of the same name.

I’m more accustomed to the director’s skin-crawling horror touches but with this film, he delivers a generally straightforward samurai tale. And while the final result differed from my expectations, in reading the production notes, it was Miike’s goal to respect the original and just breathe new life into the tale, so I have no real problem with how things turned out.

The story takes place in the 1840s, as the feudal era in Japan is drawing to a close. Amidst growing concern that the malicious and sadistic Lord Naritsugu (Gorô Inagaki) will plunge the country back into war, a group of samurai are enlisted to take him out. Pretty simple stuff but no one’s here to watch a political slugfest.

What audiences are most likely going in for is action; and although it takes time to show us the cruel, vile acts that have led to a call for Naritsugu’s death, and to gather the 13 warriors, the final battle dominates the last quarter to third of the film and, for the most part, makes us forget how long it took to get there.

The original cut sports another 15 minutes, though whether it’s more of the historical period subtext or more action, I don’t know. If anything, with the version being released stateside running just over 2 hours, I’d rather have seen an even more trimmed down version, as it takes quite a bit of time to get to the big fight at the end.

Still, the final battle scene incorporates some impressive set pieces, with an entire village being converted into a death trap for Naritsugu and his men. From that point on, the action is constant, bloody and fun (for those who like this sort of thing). Not surprisingly, if blood-stained samurai flicks don’t get you going, this isn’t going to change your mind. But if you’re a fan of the genre, “13 Assassins” will deliver what you want and it gets a 3 out of 5.

3 out of 5