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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: May 23: 13 Assassins


May 23: 13 Assassins

"A group of assassins come together for a suicide mission to kill an evil lord."

Look at these facts for a moment. 13 Assassins is a 141 minute film. The first 70 minutes build up the story and give background to the 13 samurai who vow to kill an evil warlord. The last 71 minutes however, is completely non-stop, epic, over-the-top, violent, stylized action with swords, bows, and explosives. I have never seen an action sequence that lasted this long before and it's what heightens 13 Assassins into greatness. Not to mention, this epic battle pits 13 samurai against about 400 soldiers. It's as though the fight with The Bride vs. The Crazy 88's in Kill Bill was multiplied by five and lasted four times as long. 

Less Uma Thurman and more badass Japanese actors with much cooler names than Uma Thurman. 

13 Assassins is actually a remake of a 1963 film of the same name. It follows the story of Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho), who is recruited to gather a small group of warriors to track down and execute the evil Lord Matsudaira (Gorô Inagaki). Matsudaira is related to the past and current shogun of Japan and in his position has abused the powers by murdering, raping, and pillaging all for entertainment. We see how particularly evil he is in one scene when he chops the legs, arms, and tongue off of a woman simply to have her as a "play thing" to keep him amused. Shimada knows how badly Matsudaira needs to die and he recruits 11 honorable samurai and one aloof thief to help him kill the tyrant. They lay siege to a village, where the Matsudaira is said to be traveling through, setting up booby traps and explosives awaiting his arrival. Once he and his army arrive in the village, the 13 warriors unleash an attack. As previously mentioned, this battle is the majority of the film and it is absolutely glorious. 

The film is similar to a beautiful painting splattered with blood and manliness. 

I would highly recommend 13 Assassins. Directed by Takashi Miike (who directed one of my favorite horror movies- Audition), the film blends his usual over-the-top style with a good chunk of realism and heart. Most of the characters are very well developed and, in a short time, we learn a lot of their backgrounds and reasoning for joining the fight. The choreography in the action sequences is masterful and so much is happening at once that you can't help but wonder how long it took to film. Even though there are definite comparisons to the Kurosawa's classic Seven Samurai as well as a handful of other samurai movies, 13 Assassins still stands on its own and shows you that the genre is not dead. Watch it.

The Good:
a fairly developed story in a movie you'd think would be more blood and guts than plot
The Better:
realizing that a samurai movie can still be more than just an over-the-top joke riddled with ridiculous cliches 
The Best:
having the story conclude with one of the best (and longest) action sequences I have ever seen

Overall: 9.0/10


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