13 Assassins Reviews
A pretty simple and well choreographed samurai action movie set in the end days of old Japan.
Basically, there's a very simple premise half set up through some exposition text slides at the very beginning, and the other half through some "I'm putting together a team" scenes.
It was made well enough. The costumes and sets felt authentic, although not perfect. Some of the makeup was a bit off. Mostly some helmets and the top knot wigs that were really noticeable at times. Some pretty basic usage of very rudimentary CGI here and there. The worst CGI was definitely with the burning bulls. Kinda pulled me out of the experience. The cinematography was very dry and simple. The music was just generic.
The characters were actually too underdeveloped for the most part. Maybe the main 3 or 4 characters got some semblance of characterization, but all the rest were left a bit too paper thin. I think there was definitely more that could've been done to flesh them out and to make the viewers care more about them. When you make a movie based on a team that dies off one by one under dire circumstances, it will work better if we actually care about who dies. And in this case more differentiation would also help a lot. Too many of the assassins were just a name with a sword.
The acting is a bit hard to judge, since it's a rather stylized Japanese period piece, but I'm pretty certain some of the acting was way off, even despite the culture barrier that's inherent with a non-Japanese viewer like me.
There was also a very weird tonal hiccup square in the middle of the movie where the immortal idiot basically anally rapes a mayor after the mayor oggles his dick..? It was supposed to be a comic relief moment, but.. What?? There was nothing similar to this at any other point in the movie. That was just bad. Totally fucked with the overall quality of the movie, as did the immortal idiot himself.
The best part about this movie was definitely the great samurai action. Really well choreographed. Steady, visible action. Very visceral, animalistic, desperate. It also felt like it lasted longer than any of the other aspects of the movie. It could've probably been shortened a bit in favor of stronger characterizations and set up for a more dramatic and explosive final execution. But I have to admit that when this movie worked, it was an engrossing and watchable experience. The atmosphere was maintained well besides those weird points I mentioned.
The ending seemed to linger for way too long after the final climax. It just felt like more precious time that could've been used to create better characters.
It's like this movie started off by appearing to be serious and dramatic, but then just turned into a schlocky samurai chaos movie. If that was the goal, then well done. If not, then a lot could've been done to make it into that serious and impressive movie. A more cohesive and, in the end, a better movie.
And yes, there is sword fighting in it.... :-)
Miike finally made a straight forward action movie. I thought it would never happen. I wasn't sure I wanted it to happen. But it happened. And its a masterpiece.
The movie has a very long set-up. They front load the first 20 minutes of film with some violence so we properly hate the bad guy, then the next hour brilliantly slows down, as they assemble the first 12 assassins and slowly plan things out and build up the the big battle. Its this hour that gives the film its impact.
Two competing "generals" (who have a great respect for each other) play cat and mouse as they size each other up. Shinzaemon, the leader of the Assasins is a great enigmatic character who is willing to sacrifice the whole mission on "Luck"
He is best described by his rival Habei where he basically says; "Shinzaemon is not the smartest tactician, he's not a particularly good fighter, but he never gives up. He's the kind of guy that outlasts you and wins in the end" Its Shinzaemons movie, and he's perfectly acted by koji Yakusho.
There is a brilliant melodramatic scene toward the end of the planning phase where Shinzaemon makes a "lets ride to our deaths" speech as thunder and lightning builds in the background setting up some great shots of our heroes riding horses in the rain.
There is almost no comedy, until they introduce the 13th assassin. I don't want to ruin anything about him. except to say he is the comic relief, and he kills it. Very funny, and I don't think it could be played by any other actor. I don't know where they found that guy, but he owns the role. He's kind of the classic "step and fetch it" character, but his ongoing commentary on samuraii culture is a nice touch. The absurd character is the perfect person to point out the absurdity of the noble man.
The final battle scene is close to an hour long and take place entirely in one location. Thats right, almost an hour. Miike makes you wait for it, but when the chaos begins, he gives us spectacular pay off.
You get all the tough guy moments you could want and more. I won't ruin any of the surprises, but I assure you, its awesome. One of the hero death scenes in is my favorite hero death scene I've ever seen.
And theres flaming bulls.
Miike holds himself in check all the way untill the last scene of the movie, where he clearly couldn't help himself and had to do something weird, almost just to say "oh you like that shit? Well don't forget, Im Miike Takashi!!!!!"
An instant classic. Its an age old story, told straight forward. I highly recommend this movie.