13 Assassins Reviews
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.