Directed by: Takashi Miike
Written by: Kaneo Ikegami (based on a screenplay by), Daisuke Tengan (screenplay)
Produced by: Minami Ichikawa, Tôichirô Shiraishi, Michihiko Yanagisawa
Starring: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yûsuke Iseya, Gorô Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijiro Hira
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Run Time: 141 minutes
Director Takashi Miike (Audition, One Missed Call) explains, “Sword-fighting scenes are about LOVE. Without brotherly love, we could not shoot such violent sword-fighting scenes.” If violence represents love than 13 Assassins is one of the most romantic and loving films made in the last few years; a chick flick if you will, filled with not only blood but with strong male characters, intelligent dialog and ruthless antagonist. Well, maybe 13 Assassins isn’t really a movie about romance and lacks all of those warm, friendly moments that make up most modern day action movies but is that really a bad thing? Picture this: a handsome rebel who does some sort of dangerous work meets a beautiful woman in need. Sound familiar? That’s the plot to almost every action movie that’s been released in the last few years and it’s exactly the opposite of what we see in 13 Assassins.
13 Assassins chronicles a suicide mission where a small group of samurai plot to kill a corrupt, brutal member of Japans ruling class who is in line to become the next Shogun. While the basic idea sounds simple, it’s the execution that makes the movie shine. The main characters, good and evil, have deep philosophical ideals behind their actions which are rooted deeply with what it means to be a samurai. 13 Assassins showcases a mix of drama, subtle conflict, and of course, extreme violence much in the same ways that have characterized Miike’s previous films.
Almost everything about the film’s production is done well aside from a few aspects with bad cgi effects and a few over the top visuals. The sets are beautiful and authentic with a great deal of attention to detail. The music enhances and meshes with the story as do most of the sound effects. While most of the cinematic details are brilliant there are still some flaws, such as extreme close ups during battle scenes which throw the viewer off a bit(since that usually means the actors can’t really do the more intense action scenes) but all of that can be forgiven when the sheer volume of work that went into the choreography.
13 Assassins fills the void left behind by the swarms of those cookie cutter action movies that are produced by untalented Hollywood writers. America needs is a different kind of action movie, one that’s raw, dark, where the characters aren’t handsome charming womanizers but actually have depth and believe in something. In the end 13 Assassins is a brilliant action film but be warned, the action scenes are extremely long so if you’re not into action than it may be best to skip this film. This movie is a must for fans of Miike’s work, fans of samurai movies and people who are tired of watching common stylized action films. 13 Assassins is indeed an action movie made with love; the love of the actors, directors, producers and everyone else involved in the production of the movie. 13 Assassins will be part of the San Francisco International Film Festival so be sure to take the chance to see it on a big screen.