I hope my boss doesn’t read this one… And yes, it’s another Japanese flick. I like Japanese flicks.
Mind blown. Sentences, can’t make.
I have spent the last five hours in a daze. I don’t even know what I was doing at work all afternoon. This movie is 70 minutes of character building, getting-the-team-together, fairly standard albeit very well executed stuff, followed by 50 minutes of unrelenting slaughter. If you think you’ve seen a sword fight before, trust me, you haven’t seen shit.
I don’t know quite how he is thought of in his homeland but in the West, it is fair to say that Takashi Miike is considered a bit of a nut. A blood and guts gorehound tied to an occasionally silly sense of humour. Based on the limited number of his films that get a decent release in this country I suppose that’s not an unfair assumption, but with 13 Assassins, Miike has come of age in glorious fashion. As the title suggests, this film is about twelve samurai plus a hunter they pick up on the way on a mission to assassinate Lord Naritsugu, son of a former and younger brother of the current Shogun, a psychopath who practices his archery on families he has tied up in the garden. Naritsugu made the mistake of killing the son of Sir Doi, a senior man in the government, and mutilating his daughter in law. Recognising that this monster cannot be allowed to rise to a position of authority, Sir Doi hires the samurai Shinzaemon to gather a group and take him out. The Assassins take a leaf out of King Leonidas’ book and place themselves in a town on the road Naritsugu is travelling on. They take over the entire place and arrange everything in their favour.
This is Miike’s entry in the jidaigeki story tradition, where films such as Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress also reside, and it definitely deserves to be named alongside those. The 50 minute battle scene sees the Assassins face off against not the expected 70, but more than 200 of Naritsugu’s guards, led by Hanbei, Shinzaemon’s old sparring partner, in a mesmerising parade of fights. The most memorable sequence for me was the ronin Kujūrō against at least 40 guards. He had set himself up in a street and lined the length of it with spare swords so if one was caught in an enemy he could just let go and grab another. You have never seen anything like it.
Because there is such a large group, some of the Assassins suffer in terms of character development and differentiation – not helped by the traditional haircut they all sport, with the exception of Kujūrō and the hunter Koyata. Speaking of Koyata, this guy doesn’t even fight with a sword. He uses his standard hunting weapon of a rock in a sling! And by the end, you’re questioning if he is actually even human…
So if you are a fan of Kurosawa, go get this film. If all you know of Miike is Audition or Ichi The Killer, don’t be put off. This is incredible stuff. I’m going to wind this up, because it’s almost midnight and I want to watch it again before bed. Back tomorrow.