Ratings: 3 stars out of 5
The Buzz: The versatile and prolific Takashii Miike remakes a classic samurai movie, partially inspired by Seven Samurai.
The Stars: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Gorô Inagaki and Yûsuke Iseya
The story: In this remake of a 1966 classic, a group of assassins come together for a suicide mission to kill Lord Naritsugu (Gorô Inagaki), the evil brother of a ruling shogun. The film culminates in a mind-blowing, forty-five minute battle sequence that rivals anything seen before in the genre.
inSing says: The prolific Miike redoes a samurai epic, while paying homage to Kurosawa's classic Seven Samurai. But instead of fighting bandits, the assassins are up against a vile samurai lord and his men.
The samurai lord is played with suitable menace by Inagaki, and on the other side, Kôji Yakusho portrays the single minded leader who is aware that he and the other assassins are the only ones that stand between Naritsugu and his reign of evil.
After the first hour where the assassins are gathered together, the second half of the film, where the vile Shogun and his men are trapped in a mining town, is a non-stop sequence of battles.
Much of the story depends on archetypes, from old warriors holding onto the concept of bushido, skilled samurai warriors seeking redemption, expert swordsmen and novices trying to prove themselves.
The film doesn't have the same depth of subtext that Seven Samurai, turning into a fairly straightforward affair as it becomes a free-for-all. For Miike, best known for the stomach-churning Audition and blood splattering Ichi the Killer, 13 Assassins is fairly restrained, though there are scenes of spouting blood and a fair amount of violence.
13 Assassins probably won't go down as a classic, but it is still a well-made, highly enjoyable samurai film that celebrates the genre.