13 Assassins [十三人の刺客, Jūsannin no Shikaku] (2010)
Official US release in 2011
Starring Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya, Goro Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijiro Hira, Hiroki Matsukata, Ikki Sawamura, Arata Furuta, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Masataka Kubota, Sosuke Takaoka, Seiji Rokkaku, Yuma Ishigaki, Koen Kondo, Ikki Namioka
Directed by Takashi Miike
Expectations: High. Samurais = Awesome, right?
I loved everything about 13 Assassins. Start to finish, it’s flawless. Opening as a slow-paced and very traditional samurai picture, and ending as an all-out action blowout, 13 Assassins is the samurai film of the modern era. This is the first Takashi Miike film I’ve seen, despite being very aware of his name for many years. I remember hearing hot shit about Audition after it came out in 1999, but my mind was elsewhere and I chose to put it off until later. The years went on, and still I chose to push it aside, perhaps because the passing years led me to inadvertently picking up a good portion of the plot through varied conversations. In any case, as soon as I saw some footage from 13 Assassins I knew that I’d make it my first Miike film. I’m just a sucker for a samurai film. I never could have imagined that I’d love it as much as I did, and if his other films (of which there are many) are even half as awesome as this, then they are very well worth watching.
I knew virtually nothing about 13 Assassins going into it and that’s probably the best way to experience it. The film is a remake of Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 film, The Thirteen Assassins, which, coincidentally, is finally getting an American DVD release this June. I haven’t seen the original, but judging from some plot summaries the two films follow the same framework. While I don’t want to go into any plot specifics, 13 Assassins spends a little more than half its runtime slowly building up the tension and the characters, and then the remaining minutes are completely devoted to exploding that tension and delivering nothing but action.