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13 Assassins, The honorable review

Japanese poster with full cast.

Directed by: Takeshi Miike

Written by: Kaneo Ikegami, Daisuke Tengan (screenplay)

-13 Assassins,  13 brave men and a Director and two writers that did a job well done.

13 Assassin’s (Jûsan-nin no shikaku) is a movie about brave and honorable samurai’s in a time of peace confronted with a ruthless man who could become a potential threat to the long-lasting peace. An amazing story that only japan can produce, you plunge into the late Edo period where  honor is still at its core and where disgrace and shame is unacceptable. A testament to Takeshi Miike’s worth as a director when teamed up with good writers.

The story is set around 1840, the Edo period is nearly at its end and so is the everlasting samurai era which serves little to no use in times of peace. But while peace dulled their blade, it left their strong sense of honor intact. In fact the keyword of his movie is honor, this movie will confront you with it in a direct fashion in the beginning of the movie, that never-ending theme that defy human moral and sense of judgement will be elaborated on as the 2 hours long movie plays out.

I cannot begin describing the moral conflicts concerning the measures to end Lord Naritsugu’s (Gorô Inagaki) sadistic ways, the man who is the son of the former shogun and the half-brother of the current shogun cannot be touched by the law and cannot be forced to step down as well. There’s no vault big enough to hide all his wrong doings, that man is as evil as they make him seem in the 2010 trailers,make no mistake; this man defines the word evil. Inagaki made sure to play his role well: no emotions what so ever, no contempt for his fellow-man and an incredibly condescending personality.The instant they introduce his true nature is the moment you will wish to see him suffer like no man before.

It won’t take long before you realize that the only way to deal with that is to assassinate him (hence the title) with the help of a former shogun samurai, Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho ) a man with presumably great status yet humble, my second favorite role in this movie due to the fact that the acting felt spot-on.Being the man he is (a well acted man that is), it won’t take long to see many more skilled warriors joining him.The beauty does not lie in the fact that they joined him, but in the fact that some of them were picked out of a hundred in a time of peace in which the standard skills have weaken. The fact that they are willing to give their life for a cause is touching but yet foolish for i do not have it in my hard to be that brave, it’s really inspiring especially near the end at the ‘final showdown’.

The then 12 men stand their ground against a group of rōnins.

I do admit that I expected a more thoughtful way to introduce ALL the assassins as to feel some kind of kinship towards the characters. Most of the assassins where skilled students appointed to the cause, it didn’t even take that long to round them up either. But as the movie comes closer to the end and when you see bravery colliding with violence, I couldn’t help but to be satisfied.

Number 13 and conclusion

If you watched the same amount of trailers as I did you will be asking yourself  “where is assassin number 13?”  halfway true the movie. There will be a time where you’ll wonder if the number 13 was a mistake, but it is not he is shown in posters but he has yet to appear when you see the movie, an aspect I found very strange at first.

With that said, I am proud to admit that this is one great recent Japanese films.The samurai action was exquisite yet realistic with some exceptions. Getting this as DVD/Blu-ray would not be a bad idea for a good time with friends.


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3 comments on “13 Assassins, The honorable review

  1. stardust979
    March 4, 2012

    Coincidentally I watched this film two nights ago on rental video! Am not sure if this is the same director who brought Battle Royale to the screen, but the subject of sadism and violence might be some sort of favourite theme (!). I liked the film’s play on a sadistic guy with a philosophical albeit theoretical view of life, and how it ended. It seemed almost doomed with the 13 battling 200+ people but towards the end, I was very happy to see that there was a good conclusion.

    I noticed that the film paid very close attention to sound (not sure is it because it was quiet when I watched it!) but the sound effects were acutely heard. The film I felt was beautifully shot, what better way to showcase the natural beauty of surroundings with a touch of violence and blood as balance? 🙂

    Thank you for this review, it is wonderful to read it.

    • Osaru-yo
      March 4, 2012

      Couldn’t have said it better, your short view of this movie impresses me. And no he wasn’t involved in battle royal, Takeshi Miike is notorious for typical family movie violence like the adaptation of the game Yakuza. He makes good movies from time to time but only when paired with a good writer.

      • stardust979
        March 4, 2012

        Hmm I’m not familiar with this director but did he direct Audition? I can’t remember but that film was to me rather disturbing and yet interesting. I have not watched many of Kurosawa’s but the samurai films I like were the ones by Yoji Yamada, I think it was twilight samurai and a few films adapted from the books by Shuhei Fujisawa. What struck me as different was how the samurai was portrayed to be ordinary and rather humbling, and how they struggled to maintain dignity and yet fight for people they loved.

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