What a glorious movie. Takashi Miike, a very prolific Japanese director with over a hundred projects, has made one of the greatest samurai movies of all time. His movies are often bizarre and very violent like Ichi the Killer and you can definitely feel that twisted vibe here. Bound by the story and strict samurai code, Miike’s vision was very focused and more importantly, it featured elements that were updated to modern cinema standards. Based on a black and white movie from 1963, 13 Assassins is a brutal and relentless movie, as visceral as it gets.
Commercial epic 300 may be closest to this masterpiece when it comes to the general story and emotions. However, there are also stark differences between the movies, especially when it comes to the visuals and overall vibe. More honest, dirty and down to earth, 13 Assassins shreds its opposition with masterful camera-work and unbelievably good fighting scenes. The Raid could be a better opponent, at least visually. Finally, Game of Thrones has to be mentioned, after all, they share both the sadistic ruler and extremely intense battles.
It is the year 1844 and life is difficult in Japan. Tokugawa shogunate is slowly dissolving and to make things worse, Shogun’s half-brother Matsudaira Naritsugu is torturing and killing people without any justice. Twisted and unphased by the strict moral code, he’s casually killing everyone who he feels like killing.
Samurai, now slowly disappearing from Japanese society after centuries of presence, are disgusted by these blatant actions. One of them commits seppuku, a ritual suicide, unable to stop Naritsugu. Sir Doi, in charge of Justice under Shogun, sees the threat that he poses to Japan and enlists his friend Shimada Shinzaemon, an older samurai for a suicide mission with only one goal: Kill Naritsugu.
This fucking movie… Right from the opening scene, it rips right through your emotions with its realistic and visceral approach. Sporting not only the glorious violence, but it also concentrating on the samurai and their strict code of conduct: bushido. The moral conflict in this black and white world pushes men to do strange things. The story may be good, but the action is phenomenal.
The final fight lasts for fucking 45 minutes, reminiscent of The Wild Bunch. This dark and twisted world is sometimes interrupted by “comic relief” scenes that look pretty odd. However, in all this chaos, they were a welcome addition. I have seen the movie about three days ago and I still cannot shake just how good and powerful it is. A couple of scenes will stay with you, I can tell you that. And they should stay with you, reminding you of how things really are.
13 Assassins is not only a great action/horror movie, but it’s also a period drama. It enables us to see Japanese culture up close and personal, both past and present. There are so many great things with this movie that I keep forgetting them. The acting was superb, with the very experienced cast and exciting fight scenes. I could go on and on, but there’s nothing left to say but two words. Total Massacre.