Friday, May 20, 2011
13 Assassins (十三人の刺客)
Despite the uniquely shaved hairstyle, samurai
give me the impression for being brave and brutal at the same
time, and they treat their dignity and reputation as
important as their lives. They often draw their swords to kill either
the enemy, or themselves. They regard death as honor and
have no fear of it.
These characteristics of samurai are vindicated from the opening scene to its last frame in prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike's (三池 崇史) splendid and bloody film "13 Assassins" (十三人の刺客 | Japan 2010 | in Japanese | 126 min.). This remake of a 1963 Japanese film is a samurai movie that is filled with fierce fight, river of blood, and plenty rolling heads, and it is certainly not a period drama about Japanese history or politics.
Set in 1844, the end of Edo period, shougun's brutal brother, Lord Naritsugu (Gorô Inagaki), is about to seize more power and bring more misery to the people. In order to stop Naritsugu, a veteran samurai Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho) chooses eleven more samurai to carry out the assassination of Naritsugu, even he is protected by a well-trained army with hundreds of soldiers.
They all understand that obviously this is a suicide mission, but all of them are determined to finish this last job with their lives.
On their way to the location where they ambush Naritugu, they encounter a villager who is familiar with surroundings, and he is quickly recruited to be the 13th assassins.
After they carefully convert a village to a battle ground, the rest is history.
Besides numerous swords are stuck to the ground like grass, a large amount of explosive is also used in the battle. Otherwise, how can thirteen men confront hundreds of soldiers? If assassination is the ultimate goal, anything goes for a kill.
Although I can still see traces from Takashi Miike's previous films such as "Audition" (a female victim of Naritugu surely looks familiar), "13 Assassins" is a delicately crafted epic samurai film that has little resemblance to his previous films. The almost never ending battle is surprisingly engaging, remarkably detail oriented, and definitely entertaining.
However, besides few leading characters, it is hard to distinguish the other assassins, especially when they wear similar clothes and have the same haircut. Let's just call them samurai.