13 Assassins Takashi Miike

13 Assassins Takashi Miike
13 Assassins takes place in May of 1844, in the waning days of feudal Japan. Evoking The Godfather in its opening scenes, the film follows the precisely plotted story of aging, idle master samurai Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho), who's recruited to fulfil his calling by avenging the brutal disfiguring (as in sawed-off limbs, all four of them) of a concubine and the general despotic behaviour by psychopathic Lord Noritsugu (Gorô Inagaki). Shimada pulls together a piecemeal group of assassins in short order to ambush the nut bar shogun and restore order to the shogunate. 13 Assassins is the newest "big" film from the prolific Takashi Miike (as opposed to his numerous "little" projects that fill the cracks between his more high profile gigs), and he plays it straight, for the most part. While anyone but the most hardcore samurai fans will tend to get a little squirmy sitting through another series of tropes about honour and the way of the samurai, the wait is worthwhile, as Miike cleverly sets up his to eventually eviscerate them. 13 Assassins is an investigation of the events leading up to Japan's great social upheaval in the late 19th century and the end of over two-and-a-half centuries of seclusion and isolationist policy. Miike never allows any obvious visual cues to creep into his work, but one can easily read 13 Assassins as an analogy for modern upheaval in contemporary Japan. All subtext aside, the action-packed final third of the film is where 13 Assassins comes alive, beginning with a striking ambush, and developing into an epic battle of swords and wits. Miike, of course, isn't shy with the blood, and creative ways in which the samurai dispose of each other abound. Most extraordinary though is the way in which the director conveys a sense of the hopeless brinksmanship involved in battle, with an eye-for-an-eye taken to the most literal levels. 13 Assassins is a strong film that proves Miike has a solid sense of history. The DVD package includes a plethora of deleted scenes, which help flesh out the story, especially considering the film was cut almost half an hour for North American release. Hopefully a director's cut is in the works. (Alliance)