13 Assassins review

:. Director: Takashi Miike
:. Starring: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada
:. Running Time: 2:06
:. Year: 2010
:. Country: Japan


With 13 Assassins, Japanase director Takashi Miike delivers a surprisingly formal samourai film in an otherwise outrageous filmmography. Based on a Seven Samourai/Dirty Dozen template, the film follows a group of assassins as they try to kill a cruel lord.

13 Assassins is mostly a pretext for Miike to stage an hour long sword fight and the result proves to be quite entertaining. Opting for an old-fashionned mise en scene rather than his kinetic style, this film shows more restraint than what we would have anticipated from the inconoclastic filmmaker. While, with hundreds of pierced and severed piling up, this is quite a bloody mess, we are also far from the gory tones that can be found in his body of work, or even in his counterpart Takeshi Kitano's own take on samourai films - I am of course referring to Zatoichi's blind and bloody feast.

This however doesn't mean that Mr Miike decided to strip of his emblematic sensibility for this film. His weird sense of humor is still present and, for a short and creepy sequence, he even manages to inject disturbing horror into 13 Assassins, through a woman whose arms, legs and tongue have been cut - think Audition.

Beside the obvious hommage to Seven Samourai, Dirty Dozen and all killers-on-a-mission flicks, Mr Miike also refers once again to Django - he previously gave us an anachronic take on Sergio Corbucci's classic spaghetti western with Sukiyaki Western Django - though the deserted and muddy town he uses as a setting for his film.

In terms of storyline, there won't be any suprise in this David against Goliath battle, those 13 assassins falling one after the other but not before having sliced dozens of ennemies that standed in their path. As for the mise-en-scene, the fighting sequences are well orchestred but because of the old-fashionned approach, they lack the dexterity and hysteria that other filmmakers were able to bring to the genre - I'm mostly thinking about what Mr Tarantino did with Kill Bill.

This leaves us with a film that certainly won't be remembered as Mr Miike's most emblematic work or even as a major entry in the samourai genre, but as a fun period action film from a versatile director.

  Fred Thom

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