Director: Takashi Miike, Screenplay: Shoichiro Ikemiya, Daisuke Tengan
Cast: Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Hiroki Matsukata, Goro Inagaki, Yusuke Iseya
I haven’t watched a lot of samurai movies although I have seen Seven Samurai and The Twilight Samurai, both of which I enjoyed. 13 Assassins is simple and straight forward. Dismayed with the excesses of a Japanese lord who kills without remorse, a group of samurais vow to kill him for the betterment of the people. The first half which clocks in over an hour establishes how bad said lord is, how the assassins are recruited and their preparations. The second half is all out war as the 13 assassins cut through forces much greater in number to get at the lord.
With all the super positive reviews of this movie, I have to say I’m not quite sure what all the fuss is about. The movie is pretty predictable and I found myself wanting to fast-forward through the first hour. Sure we get some character development stuff but none of the samurais are particularly interesting. Only the evil lord and the wild hunter guy have personality with the latter adding humour to the proceedings.
Thankfully once the fighting starts, it doesn’t stop until the end lasting over 40 minutes. There are lots of cuts in the fight scenes and some shots just seem to muddle what’s going on rather than enhancing. Because of this it can sometimes be hard to appreciate the action. Granted this chaotic filming style does suit the nature of battle where often a single samurai is frantically killing as many opponents as possible while desperately retreating from seemingly endless waves of opponents. The action is dirty and gritty but overall nothing special. I can’t say I’d go out of my way to recommend it to others but if you’re a fan of samurai movies already then my opinion won’t matter to you anyway.
This was a review of the director’s cut. The next Fantasia screening is Thursday July 27 at 3pm, Hall.
UPDATE: A 3rd extra screening has been added on Sunday August 7 at 5pm, Hall