Movie of the Day – 13 Assassins

Takashi Miike is a lot of things, well actually one thing and that is the visceral director of some of the most insane and disturbing films to come out of the era of V-cinema and Japanese filmmaking.  A man who puts to film some depraved things like Visitor Q, Izo, Dead or Alive and Ichi The Killer.  If you have never seen any of his films, they are hard to watch but there is no denying the sheer boundaries that have been pushed by his filmmaking.  Titillating and thought provoking, his films have a unique style that I admire as a fan of film.  But seeing him take on more complicated projections and properties is something that can only lead to a certain cinematic style that Miike can bring.  Tackling a remake of the 1963 film of the same name is a tall order, but there is no denying that his intensity will be carefully transposed on the film that plays fast with a loose historical affiliation and one of the most intense third acts in film history.

Based on actual events that served as the inspiration for the 1963 film of the same name, Takashi Miike‘s 13 Assassins follows a group of noble samurai as they seek to slay a tyrannical, politically connected lord before he seizes control of the entire country. Japan, 1844: as the era of the samurai winds to a close, a sadistic young lord uses his powerful political ties to commit heinous atrocities against the common people. Recognizing the dangers to both his country and its citizens should the lord manage to gain any more power, a concerned government official secretly recruits 13 of the most skilled swordsmen he can find to defeat the evil lord once and for all. But reaching their target won’t be easy, because the elusive lord is constantly flanked by legions of fearless bodyguards. Realizing that the bodyguards would decimate his modest task force in a traditional battle, the assassins’ leader (Koji Yakusho) lays an ingenious trap that will give his men the upper hand, and waits patiently for their prey to take the bait. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

I have made it known my love of the Jidaigeki style of filmmaking with previous movie like The Sword of Doom.  Jidaigeki means “period drama” with a lot of the films rooted in the Edo era of Japan.  This time period in film is usually featuring the lives of Samurai, ronin or shogun, interacting with the society of Japan.  Sometimes the Jidaigeki bleeds into the Chambra genre, where swordplay is the main draw of these films.  Personally it is more of a sub-genre, but still an amazing genre regardless.  13 Assassins is a pure mix of the two genres, crafting a tight story driven narrative with compelling characters and rooted history.  Personally, it is one of the best films Miike has made because of the scope and content of the film itself.  It isn’t tempered in any way, because the trademarks of his filmmaking is still present and visceral as ever.

For a lot of people that have seen this film, it is a slow burn of a film with the first half of the film building up to the ending, but it is superbly acted by the leader of the assassin group Koji Yakusho (Babel and Memoirs of a Geisha).  The design and setting is beautiful, even when flashes of ultra violence appear on screen.  Koji is phenomenal at commanding a certain presence on the screen and controlling the mood of the film when the plot begins to shift towards the killing of the emperor.  The true highlight of the film for me is the second half of the film, which I want you to take all the notions of samurai battles and any real action scenes you have and throw them out the window cause this final is truly defining as a film.

The film clocks in at over two hours, where the first half is devoted to the setup and the last hour of the film is entirely devoted to the showdown between the 13 assassins and over 200 personal bodyguards that accompany the target.  Let me say this again, 13 versus over 200 trained killers.  The showdown is one of the most complicated setups ever in which the battle takes place in this mini-village that was built and destroyed during the battle.  Every person felled by a blade is strewn about like litter on the ground, but every shot is basically in continuity with the entire scene, meaning the same people that died early on in the film will be shown still in their place as the battle wages on.  Sometimes we are used to seeing baddies fall by the dozen and then magically disappear in later scenes, but not this.  The skill and  cinematic eye that is required to control the chaos and scene is downright insane, but with Miike directing you have a damn good shot at making this work.

For me, the film is at it’s best when the restraints are taken off and you go right for that beautiful arterial spray of violence.  Every sword swing is punctuated with a weighty thud and the intensity of the acting and battles pretty much put to shame previous Chambra style films.  It is chaotic, frenetic and downright glorious to watch this film and even the trailer makes me giddy when you see one lone Ronin clean his blade of blood for the next battle.  Freaking amazing and intense, this is the Miike film that will make you a fan of him if you aren’t already.

*images via RottenTomatoes

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

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