×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

13 Assassins

Takashi Miike is in top slashtastic form with this samurai drama.

With:
With: Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya, Goro Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijiro Hira, Hiroki Matsukata, Ikki Sawamura, Arata Furuta, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Masataka Kubota, Sousuke Takaoka, Seiji Rokkaku, Koen Kondo, Yuma Ishigaki, Kazuki Namioka, Kazue Fukiishi, Koshiro Matsumoto, Mitsuki Tanimura, Takumi Saito, Shinnosuke Abe, Masaaki Uchino, Ken Mitsuishi, Ittoku Kishibe.

Protean, prolific and wildly erratic Japanese helmer Takashi Miike is in top, slashtastic form with his latest, samurai drama “13 Assassins,” a remake of a 1963 film of the same name by Eichi Kudo. Made on a bigger budget and with more care than he often devotes to his work, this at first slow-moving and then wildly kinetic actioner possesses a cool classicism that will appeal to offshore auds as well as those at home, where the major name cast should help the pic run rampant at the domestic B.O. on its Sept. 25 bow.

Set around 1844, when the feudal Shogunate still ruled Japan, the action starts with an attention-grabbing sequence showing a nobleman (Masaaki Uchino) committing hara-kari. It’s explained that his ritual suicide was sparked by shame over fact that his daughter was raped and murdered by Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (smoothly heinous Goro Inagaki), the current Shogun’s brother, whose bloodlust — and just plain lust — seems to know no bounds.

Deciding that enough’s enough, high-ranking Shogun official Sir Doi (Mikijiro Hira) hires respected samurai Shinzaemon Shimada (Koji Yakusho, a local household name better known offshore for “Babel” and “Memoirs of a Geisha”) to assassinate Naritsugu.

Slightly draggy middle act focuses on Shinzaemon preparing a team of, natch, 13 assassins to slay the baddie and his retinue — which means the avengers will come up against Shinzaemon’s old friend, now Naritsugu’s right-hand samurai, Hanbei Kitou (Masachika Ichimura).

Some of Shinzaemon’s band of brothers are given more prominence than others, like his gambling-addicted nephew, Shinrokuro (Takayuki Yamada), and his sturdy, fiercely loyal apprentice, Hirayama (Tsuyoshi Ihara). There’s also scruffy oldster Sahara (Arata Furuta), who asks for payment upfront (if you mapped the cast of “Ocean’s Eleven” on this, he’d be Elliott Gould), and rangy non-samurai Koyata (Takayuki Yamada, providing comic relief), who couldn’t give a damn about honor but is up for a good scrap.

Pic’s last 45 minutes or so basically offers one long battle scene as Shinzaemon and Naritsugu’s posses square off in a town loaded with booby traps set by Shinzaemon’s crew to even the 200-13 odds. Heads literally roll, but considering Miike’s reputation for extreme gore, the violence is largely restrained. Swordplay throughout is gracefully executed, with Miike and editor Kenji Yamashita striking a judicious balance between closeups and long shots. Indeed, the film’s staging makes consistent logical sense, providing a clear idea of what’s going on where and who’s who.

Most welcome of all, Miike proves here he can play it straight when he wants to, and while there’s just enough humor to leaven the proceedings (especially when things are at their grimmest, often courtesy of the deliciously, near-satanically evil Naritsugu), there’s no winking at the audience or any attempt to subvert the genre. That said, the script interjects a contempo sensibility by raising issue with the strict samurai code that calls for unconditional obedience to masters, even at the cost of what’s best for the nation. There are obvious nods to Kurosawa, but also to more contempo genre fare. Offshore auds may struggle somewhat to keep up with the earlier reels’ copious discussions of propriety and allegiance, which play such a major role in shaping events.

Terrific, character-defining costumes by Kazuhiro Sawataishi; a rousing, propulsive score by regular Miike-collaborator Koji Endo; and great, vivid sound work, especially from the pic’s Foley artists to suggest the sound of sliced flesh, round out a tip-top tech package. The version to be released in Japan will be 20 minutes longer, nearly all of it set in a bordello that’s visited the night before the battle; producers apparently felt this slowed the pic down too much, and cut it for the international version shown in Venice.

13 Assassins

Japan-U.K.

Production: A Sedic Intl., Recorded Picture Co. production, in association with TV Asahi Corp., Toho Co., Dentsu, Sedic Deux, Rakueisha. (International sales: Hanway Films, London; Toho Co., Tokyo.) Produced by Michihiko Umezawa, Minami Ichikawa, Toichiro Shiraishi, Takahiro Ohno, Hirotsugu Yoshida, Masaaki Ujo. Executive producers, Toshiaki Nakazawa, Jeremy Thomas, Takashi Hirajo. Co-producers, Kauomi Suzaki, Hisashi Usui. Directed by Takashi Miike. Screenplay, Daisuke Tengen, based on a story by Shoichirou Ikemiya.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Nobuyasu Kita; editor, Kenji Yamashita; music, Koji Endo; art director, Yuji Hayashida; set decorator, Akira Sakamoto, Osamu Kubota; costume designer, Kazuhiro Sawataishi; sound (Dolby Digital), Jun Nakamura; stunt coordinator, Keiji Tsujii; CGI producer, Misako Saka; assistant directors, Kimiyoshi Adachi, Takuma Yoshimi; casting, Yuriko Kitada. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Sept. 8, 2010. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Masters, London Film Festival.) Running time: 125 MIN.

With: With: Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya, Goro Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijiro Hira, Hiroki Matsukata, Ikki Sawamura, Arata Furuta, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Masataka Kubota, Sousuke Takaoka, Seiji Rokkaku, Koen Kondo, Yuma Ishigaki, Kazuki Namioka, Kazue Fukiishi, Koshiro Matsumoto, Mitsuki Tanimura, Takumi Saito, Shinnosuke Abe, Masaaki Uchino, Ken Mitsuishi, Ittoku Kishibe.With: Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya, Goro Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijiro Hira, Hiroki Matsukata, Ikki Sawamura, Arata Furuta, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Masataka Kubota, Sousuke Takaoka, Seiji Rokkaku, Koen Kondo, Yuma Ishigaki, Kazuki Namioka, Kazue Fukiishi, Koshiro Matsumoto, Mitsuki Tanimura, Takumi Saito, Shinnosuke Abe, Masaaki Uchino, Ken Mitsuishi, Ittoku Kishibe.

More Film

  • The Kings Man

    Film News Roundup: Disney Sets 'The King's Man' Spy Comedy for February

    In today’s film news roundup, “The King’s Man” and “A Kid From Coney Island” get release dates, and “Barry” star Anthony Carrigan joins “Bill & Ted Face the Music.” RELEASE DATE Disney has set its Fox spy comedy prequel “The King’s Man” for release on an unspecified date in February. Disney made the announcement Wednesday [...]

  • Shyrakshy: Guardian of the Light

    Shanghai Film Review: 'Shyrakshy: Guardian of the Light'

    The bombastic English title might sound like it describes some comic book sci-fi epic, but in “Shyrakshy: Guardian of the Light” our hero does not wear a cape but a weathered cap, and the light he guards is not an interstellar death ray but the flickering beam of a battered old movie projector. Prominent Kazakh [...]

  • Wanda Film's Zeng Maojun

    Shanghai: China's One-Mighty Wanda Casts Itself in Role of Survivor

    The soundtrack for the introductory showreel at Wednesday evening’s Shanghai press event announcing Wanda Pictures’ annual line-up was aspirational and strangely defiant.  It began with Nina Simone crooning, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good,” and then continued with “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. “You [...]

  • 'The Souvenir' Costume Designer Fashioned 1980s'

    'The Souvenir' Costume Designer Put a Decadent Twist on Opulent ’80s Style

    Set against the backdrop of London’s early-1980s cultural renaissance, British auteur Joanna Hogg’s exquisitely sculpted and critically acclaimed “The Souvenir,” which A24 has been widening in platform release for the past month, follows film student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) and her gradually destructive romance with the magnetic Anthony (Tom Burke). “We didn’t want a film [...]

  • Anne Hathaway

    Crew Member Stabbed on Set of Anne Hathaway's 'The Witches' in England

    A crew member has been stabbed in the neck on the set of Anne Hathaway’s “The Witches” remake, which is being shot at the Warner Bros. Studios stages in Leavesden, Hertfordshire. The Hertfordshire Constabulary said in a statement that the victim was hospitalized and his alleged attacker was arrested. The two men are believed to [...]

  • paranormal-activity-1

    Paramount, Blumhouse Announce Seventh 'Paranormal Activity' Movie

    Paramount Pictures and Jason Blum’s Blumhouse are teaming on a seventh “Paranormal Activity” movie. Paramount chief Jim Gianopulos announced the untitled project Wednesday during the studio’s CineEurope presentation in Barcelona. Plot details are also under wraps. The franchise was launched with 2007’s “Paranormal Activity,” a micro-budget film about a young couple who had who moved [...]

  • Steve Buscemi

    Steve Buscemi Joins Judd Apatow's Upcoming Pete Davidson Comedy (EXCLUSIVE)

    Steve Buscemi, Kevin Corrigan, Domenick Lombardozzi and Mike Vecchione have rounded out the cast of Universal’s untitled Judd Apatow comedy starring Pete Davidson. Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow and Pamela Adlon had been previously announced. Apatow is directing from a script he co-wrote with Davidson and Dave Sirus. The film is a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content