VOD film review: 13 Assassins
Ivan Radford | On 01, Aug 2014
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Kôji Yakusho, Yûsuke Iseya Iseya, Gorô Inagaki, Arata Furuta
Watch 13 Assassins online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
It takes a certain type of director to even dream of taking on Seven Samurai. But legendary director Takashi Miike has the balls to do it. Big, crazy, bloodthirsty balls. The kind of balls that run around 19th Century Japan holding swords. Swords with balls on.
1844. It’s an era of peace. Which sucks for samurai, who are drifting about with no battles to fight or values to uphold. So when the chance comes to defend some honour and die a noble death, Shinzaemon (Yakusho) can’t wait to do his thing. And so he sets about assembling a team of 13 men to take out the corrupt, depraved and all-round evil second-in-line to the Shogun throne.
As Shinza scurries about to find his soldiers, the whopping cast of characters gets a little much. But it never drags, even when it seems to descend into a long string of namedropping. They’re all cast from stereotypes (the wise one, the stupid amateur, the young one who’s never killed before) but Miike conjures up tension in other ways. One gruesome moment with a maimed girl is harrowing stuff. It reminds us that Lord Naritsugu is a Bad Man. A bad man who butchers families and massacres little children. And so he must die.
Which is great, because Miike is busy building up to an epic showdown in a village rigged for ambush; 45 minutes of complete and utter carnage. Blood spatters everywhere, limbs get severed, traps go boom, houses go bang, and a bloody good time is had by all. It’s like a feudal version of Home Alone. If Kevin McCallister set fire to a herd of cows and got them to trample a Japanese army to death.
But this is restrained compared to Takashi’s earlier work; it’s tighter and far more mature than Ichi the Killer ever was. At one point the youthful hunter who joins in the brawl challenges the arrogant warriors. “You’re not even a samurai!” decries one. “So what?” comes the cocky reply. You can’t argue with that kind of energy.