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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Movie Review: 13 ASSASSINS

(Jûsan-nin no shikaku)

"Ruling is convenient, but only for the rulers. The people must live to serve."
-- Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira

13 Assassins (Jûsan-nin no shikaku) is a 2011 Japanese action film directed by Takashi Miike that serves as a remake of the 1963 film of the same name. After Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (Gorô Inagaki) makes his way across the Japanese countryside, murdering servants along the way, a group of samurai led by Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho) starts to plan a counter-attack that would take Naritsugu's life. As the time of their attack draws nearer, Shinzaemon learns that Naritsugu's top guard Hanbei Kitou (Masachika Ichimura) has discovered the plot to bring his lord down, so he and the other samurai have to use their cunning in order to take down the guard of over two hundred warriors protecting the evil leader.

I remember seeing the trailer for this film earlier this year, but if it ever made it to a theater near me, it only lasted for a week or two because I never had the opportunity to see it. Fortunately, it hit NetFlix Instant Watch earlier this summer, and I finally had the chance to give it a view. It had received spectacular critical reviews (it currently holds a 95% approval rating on, so that alone would have been enough to draw me to the film. Having only just realized that the film is a remake, I may have to go back and give the original film a gander as well.

The screenplay is sufficient for this type of film, and it even has touches of brilliance here and there. It's a longer film, and it takes a little while for it to build up, but once we get to the actual point of attack, it's a non-stop battle for nearly and hour. Everything beforehand is politics, and it just moves a little slowly. However, the slow build-up works very well in juxtaposition to the frenzy that occurs in the second half of the film. Also, I personally found the film's last scene to be truly spectacular. Hopefully you'll be able to see it in the same light in which I saw it.

The acting is also top-notch considering the genre we're being given. Yakusho and Ichimura give fine performances as the film's main adversaries, and a lot of credit has to be given to Inagaki, who plays a perfectly disgusting villain. We also get some great performances from the likes of Tsuyoshi Ihara and Yûsuke Iseya, who provides the comic relief in the second half of the film. While there's not enough brilliance in the acting to leave much of a lasting impression, everyone plays their part to a tee, and it fits well with the film.

Overall, it might not be a film for everyone, but I was pleasantly surprised with 13 Assassins. It's a top-notch action film, and it's definitely a quality foreign film. If you've got a couple hours to kill, you could definitely do worse than this one.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: B+
1.5 Thumbs Up

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