- Director:Takashi Miike
- Cast:Yûsuke Iseya, Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada
- Release Date:September 08, 2011
- Running time:126 minutes
- Film Worth:$12.00
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It pounds with blood-drenched action, but director Takashi Miike also offers up a thoughtful exploration of honour and loyalty.
The shadow of the mighty Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (Yojimbo, Ran) looms large over mini-epic 13 Assassins. Like most of the work of that great director, 13 Assassins' initially measured pace and character development descends into bloodshed and violence in its latter half.
Based on a 1963 film by Eiichi Kudo, 13 Assassins tells of the cruel reign inflicted by young Japanese Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu (played with grotesque pleasure by Gorô Inagaki). Another leader understands the peril of promoting this evil politician, and - in secret - dispatches Shogun Shimada Shinzaemon (Kōji Yakusho) and a group of soldiers to assassinate Naritsugu.
With the exception of a few explicit flourishes depicting Naritsugu's grotesque violence towards his subjects, the first half of 13 Assassins is slow and measured. Director Takashi Miike (Audition) draws comparisons between the Shogun leader and Naritsugu's main guard, Hanbei (Masachika Ichimura). Both men know and respect one another as enemies (think the relationship between Caius Martius Coriolanus and Tullus Aufidius in William Shakespeare's tragedy ‘Coriolanus'). Yet both warriors have different values, which leads to an inevitable showdown between the men of honour: Shinzaemon hopes to achieve justice for Naritsugu's victims, whilst Habei tries to maintain the social structure of Japan's patriarchal system - whatever the cost.
Similar to historical adventure films by Kurosawa and Western filmmakers (like Zulu and The Magnificent Seven), the second half is an extended and violent payoff to the earlier exposition. Although the sequence suffers from multiple climaxes, it still offers many unexpectedly visceral moments, such as the horrific images of inflamed bulls.
For a filmmaker infamous for his ultra-violence and aggressive imagery, Miike offers a surprisingly thoughtful exploration of the meaning of honour and loyalty in 13 Assassins' final stages, valuing the characters' sacrifice.