13 Assassins hunts for an audience

It says "13 Assassins". Trust Me.

“13 Assassins” – 53742

This is supposedly director Takashi Miike’s most accessible and light-hearted film, but as I have yet to watch Audition, I would venture to say that 13 Assassins still is not for the faint of heart.

To the best approximation of the relatively simple plot I can give, Naritsugu is the evil shogun in control. He exemplifies his unbridled cruelty early on in the film. After his sadistic mind and master mindset has been displayed to the audience, an other samurai decides now is the time to form a rebellion.

Shinzaemon, the rebel leader, gathers a troop of the 11 most skilled samurai he can find. They soon create a plan to ambush Naritsugu while he is travelling. The 12 samurai pick up a straggler along the way, the peasant named Koyata who’s a wise cracking, unorthodox, non-samurai, but knows the lay of the land. That makes 13.

That is all of the plot that makes the first half of the movie. The second half?

1 Battle scene.

The 13 assassins turn a small farming town into a death trap with lots of booby traps and dead ends to corner Naritsugu and his men. This scene is impressive in the creativity of the 13 assassins (and probably therefore Miike) and also in its immense length. It is one of the stand out features of the movie… if you’re into nonstop bloodbaths… which I am! It’s especially effective because you can actually follow what’s going on. Miike directs it so well that there is never any confusion. Or at least no more confusion than my racist self has distinguishing the different Japanese samurai.

The film on the whole is well-shot, if not always visually interesting. There is clearly an eastern sensibility that I can not access, since this feels similar to other Japanese samurai movies that I also feel to be less than 100% effective. They always get tangled in a politic that I brazenly choose not to follow – probably based on ignorance. Oh well.

The best character by a long shot in the movie though is indeed the nefarious Naritsugu, by the surprisingly good Gorô Inagaki. He has been coddled on the life of the rich and is always seeking the next thrill. To him, it involves torturing and raping his servants – and everyone his a servant. However, he has clearly spent time thinking and trying to understand what life is. I would actually venture to say that by a classical definition – he is the protagonist of the film as he undergoes the largest change. He learns and adapts his ideas to his experiences, all the while maintaining a harsh malice. He is one of my favorite villains I’ve seen in a while.

There were many things I liked about this film, but ultimately it felt about 30 minutes too long.

Closest Actual Zip Code: Madison, WI. This city actually looks down right charming. This movie might be a little too intense for them. Fun fact: Glenn Beck apparently calls Madison "The Newman of America" in a reference to Seinfeld.

Expectations: 5

Recommendable: 3

Hipster-ness: 7

Tearjerker Quotient: 4

Outstanding Fields of Cinema: 2

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