Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
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13 Assassins (2010) Directed by Miike Takishi
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira: Hanbei?
Hanbei Kitou: Huh?
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira: You think the age of war was like this?
Hanbei Kitou: Perhaps
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira: It's magnificent. With death comes gratitude for life. If a man has lived in vain, then how trivial his life is. Oh, Hanbei. Something wonderful has come to my mind.
Hanbei Kitou: Huh?
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira: Once I'm on the Shogun's council, let's bring the age of war.
Miike Takishi is one of my favorite Japanese directors, but one I approach with caution; he has a gore fetish, and sometimes, it is just too much for me. However, this time, it is a bit more restrained, and restricted to pretty much the standard buckets of blood of a good samurai movie.
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (Gorô Inagaki) is a monster. He is also the Shogun's younger half brother. He knows that his position and birth shield him utterly from any repercussions from his actions, and so, bored and without boundaries, he indulges his evil, sadistic whims, raping, murdering and mutilating at will. Soon, he will be of age to sit upon his brother's council, and then he will have real power.
Sir Dio (Mikijiro Hira), the Shogun's chamberlain realizes that when Naritsugu has real power his debaucheries would not be killing families for entertainment, but wholesale butchery...feuds sparked, rivalries inflamed, and entire clans driven to war. It could not be allowed. The Shogun would not deal with the matter; and it can't be allowed to stand. So Sir Dio crafts a plan, to do his duty by his lord, and end a problem that the Shogun cannot.
His chosen weapon is Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho), a most skillful samurai. With eleven carefully selected companions, Shinzaemon plans to kill the Shogun's half brother, knowing he will be the most vulnerable on the road, and they make their plans accordingly.
The last third of the movie is the gloriously bloody battle as the thirteen assassins (they picked up one on the road) and the shogunate retainers, led by Hanbei Kitou (Masachika Ichimura).
It is a foregone conclusion how this will end...that isn't the point. Samurai movies are about the journey. And this journey is a wondrous one, reminiscent of Kurasawa Akira, and Kon Ichikawa. It is obvious that the movie is supposed to be the bastard lovechild of Seven Samurai, and the 47 Ronin. So, does the movie live up to such illustrious parents? Well, no. To flog my analogy, this one more closely resembles 47 Ronin, both in the cinematography, which is very close, and the overall feel. It utterly fails to develop the 13 Assassins the same way we got to know the Seven Samurai.
Does that invalidate this film? Not at all. It is still a rip roaring martial arts blood bath with katanas. It is a fine exploration of the dichotomy of Duty and What is Right. (It is Hanbei's duty to protect Naritsugu, when the right thing to do would be to chop his head off himself.) It doesn't give us history, or insight, or great beauty. What it does give us is a pulse pounding action packed blood soaked action movie. It is what Miike Takashi does best.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age