Directed by Takashi Miike
Japan, 2010, 126 minutes
Japanese with English Subtitles
Numbers have featured prominently, at least in the English versions, of several Japanese sworplay films. Most notable of course is Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (1954). Eiichi Kudo's The Thirteen Assassins came out in 1963, and was followed the next year by Hideo Gosha's Three Outlaw Samurai. Starting this coming Friday, in select cities, comes prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins, his version of Kudo's original. For the complete schedule of cities and opening dates, click here.
Shinzaemon Shimada (Koji Yakusho, right)
Set in 1844 the year after Commodore Matthew Perry anchored his four black ships at Tokyo Bay and "opened" Japan to the West, the film centers on the need for Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (Goro Inagaki), the shogun's half-brother, to be assassinated. Such words as sick, sadistic and depraved don't quite suffice to describe him. His mad behavior is totally off the charts.
Sir Doi (Mikijiro Hira), a top shogun official, entrusts leading this mission, which must be done as what would today be called a "black op," to Shinzaemon Shimada (Koji Yakusho). A group of twelve set off to ambush Matsudaira and his nearly 300 men. On the way, the group is enlarged by a vagabond named Koyata (Yusuke Iseya), who guides them through a forest and brings their number up to thirteen.
With the odds highly stacked against them, the group decides to attack their target in a village along the route he must take. They employ the villagers, who leave as the confrontation is about to begin, to construct various sliding barricades that will keep the enemy trapped within. The result is a fantastic and protracted set-piece that has the vastly outnumbered assassins set about whittling down their opposition.
The international release time is 126 minutes, 15 minutes shorter than the 141 minute length of the original Japanese release. Although I've only seen the slightly shorter version, I don't think the film has at all suffered from the edits. Must say, though, that I do hope that when the DVD is issued that it will include both versions.Miike's 13 Assassins is a terrific watch , a definite must see if slicin' 'n' dicin' are at all your thing. It gets a 3.5 out of 4 star ACF rating, very highly recommended.
All photos courtesy of Magnet Releasing.