I’m a huge fan of Samurai films, since I was kid and my older brother Chuck would take me to see Kurosawa’s classics. Kurosawa’s Samurai films were so compelling and well done that I was able to escape into the worlds he would create. His films and Samurai films in general present the classic struggle of good versus evil set in a foreign world of feudal Japan.
Takashi Miike’s fantastic 13 Assassins presents all that is great about this genre. It present a story of a small band of samurai’s defending honor, seeking revenge against a dark Sadistic monster Lord Naritsugu by Kantoro Sugu. This character is so evil, that the fight against him becomes your fight. You want to see him defeated. He represents the Japan that was passing the samurai’s up in the movie. The Samurai is the loyal servant, whose life is meant only to further the will of the Lord. Lord Naritsugus’ is the sadistic son of a shogun, who is in line to join the governing council of Shoguns. Lord Naritsugu become the target of a plot to kill him before he can join the council. The fear is he will create war and end the peace that is existing at that time, The task falls on 12 samurai. The 12 and then 13 Assassins wind up facing 230 samurai’s to complete their task. It’s this underdog fight which is most compelling in this movie.
Not wanting to give anymore away just know that this is by far the most stylish and truly classic Samurai picture I have seen in years. Again it has it all,overwhelming odds for our heroes, a sadistic antagonist, huge set staging with perfect attention to detail. The action which takes place in mud and blood ala Kurosawa. The action in this film is so perfectly choreographed, and very realistic. I believe they must have used thousands of gallons of fake blood. This movie has alot of blood and gore. The opening scene is a Samurai performing hari-kari. The blood flows from that point and only ends as the film does. It is Gloriously done.
The Characters are very sympathetic and fleshed out, almost all of the 13 assassins are developed. The writers employ the stereotypical characters, but he respects them all the same. The director and writer definitely respects the genre. The relationships are believable. One theme that gets played out is the tension between the Lord (Government) and the People. There are numerous conversations between these samurai, at one point is summed up by a character who puts it this way,” a wild dog vs a lap dog.” The samurai Ronin and the ones in service of a sho-gun lord. The Samurai swear allegiance to their lords, their life has no meaning on its own, only in service does it matter. So in that period the Sho-Gun system was collapsing and the Ronin became rampant. (It is also in this period, that Yakuza have their roots among the Ronin)
This film is a must see. By far the best of its genre of this generation. I was able to watch it on NetFlix. You can also get a copy on Amazon.com. I am giving this picture 5 Samurai Swords My highest rating.