May 6 2011 By Chris Severs
It's been a long time since these shores have witnessed samurai sword play with so much finesse that wasn’t from Quentin Tarantino.
13 Assassins (Cert 15) is a step in to the mainstream by controversial Japanese director Takeshi Miike, infamous for cult films such as Audition and Ichi the killer.
Set in feudal Japan, the film tells the story of a group of 12 samurai and one mysterious character (with a lot more to him than is let on) enlisted to assassinate a brutal and sadistic lord.
For fans of the genre, this will be seen as a breath of fresh air. A mature, if not a little gruesome, attempt at an old fashioned story that leads to nostalgia of classics like Seven Samurai and its Western remake The Magnificent Seven.
For the majority of its 141 minutes, we are given 101 reasons why evil lord Naritsugu can never be allowed to ascend to the throne. His ambitions lie solely in war and villainy, and not the peace and justice the assassins seek.
Miike is patient and meticulous in his build up, some general background on our heroes is interspersed with the assassins working on their not so subtle plan to kill Naritsugu. All of the set-up and tension building culminates in what is one of the most ambitious finales in film history.
A 45-minute crimson soaked battle to the death to decide the fate of people ensues, making this film well worth the entry fee.
While Miike’s film may fall just short of ‘genius’, and lacks true originality, it delivers a solid, entertaining and intelligent tale that is executed well and has long been missing since the height of the samurai genre.
13 Assassins should please any fan of Japanese cinema, and if recent swordplay flicks like Tarantino’s Kill Bill were to your taste, then the bloody crescendo to this film alone will have you going home satisfied.
13 Assassins: Release May 6 2011
Certificate 15: Subtitled
Director: Takeshi Miike
Stars: Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Goro Inagaki