An order is made to end the terror of Lord Naritsugu (GorŰ Inagaki), who is, itís agreed, too deadly to be promoted by his brother, the current Shogun, up the political ladder. The team is assembled, the plan laid out. The assassins will ambush Naritsugu and end his reign before itís given a chance to begin.
Naritsugu is a vicious bastard. He rapes, disembodies, impales, and slaughters as quickly as we sneeze--and we probably feel more guilty about the sneeze.
The film is far more exciting and developed than the familiar and conventional plot may let on. Helmed by Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike, best known to this side of the globe for Audition (1999) and Ichi the Killer (2001), 13 Assassins is essentially a men-on-a-suicide-mission movie (the men are gathered and dispensed in a similar manner). But with Miikeís added touch of brutality and bloodlust, itís a prime example of what a modern samurai film should be.
Western action directors, too, should pay attention. The swordfights and battles spread about the film are executed with enormous skill and, unlike what American audiences are accustomed to, shun close-ups and post-production distractions like fast or slow motion. The final battle, running about 40 minutes (with only a few brief moments to catch breath), is incredibly chaotic, but every blade and wound in visible. Though Miike, in his words, didnít set out to make an action, this stretch is worthy of inclusion in a clip reel of the great action sequences of modern cinema.
The details of the time are also right, and itís relieving to see a samurai-action that cares as much about impressing history fanatics with accurate 1840s-era sets and costumes as it does about wowing those who paid to see blood.
And it is bloody. It has to be. Thatís the only way Miike will have it.
Interview with director Takashi Miike (18:43): In this interview (with a very giddy young journalist), Miike offers his insight on many aspects of 13 Assassins, including the highlights of the film, the performances from his cast, the final battle, the sound, and more.