By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
If you’re familiar with J-Horror, or just some of the more bizarre corners of Japanese cinema, I probably don’t have to tell you who Takashi Miike is. Just in case, he’s a director from the Land of the Rising Sun who’s famous for being both prolific (an average more than three! films a year, not including TV and anthology work) and often way, way fucked up.
In the case of Ichii the Killer, “All of the Fucked Up”
So, when it was announced that he was doing a traditional samurai film, in 3-D no less, I was prepared for gallons of blood shooting at the screen, and maybe some amputated rectums or something. Well, Miike completely subverted my expectations once again…
… by delivering a pretty standard samurai film. 13 Assassins tells the tale of, well, thirteen assassins who are tasked with taking down a sadistic sonofabitch who is on the cusp of a position of power… and his army of retainers.
If you’ve never seen a samurai film, you’re in for a treat. But first, go home right now, get a copy of Seven Samurai or Yojimbo, and watch it. What are you doing? I said right now, goddam it!
You can finish saving lives later
If you’re already a fan of the genre, you won’t find much new here, although Miike can’t resist tossing in a few socking elements here and there. Let’s just say the villain, Lord Naritsugu, is a really bad guy, and Miike reinforces that wherever he can.
What you will find is amazing fight choreography and hardcore action, culminating in an almost hour-long finale that delivers everything you might want for an epic battle: courage, sacrifice, blood, explosions, heaps of badassery, and even a few doses of humor. That mostly comes courtesy of Yusuke Iseya, who fills the crazy, half wild “final fighter” role that Toshiro Mifune single-handedly made an archetype in Seven Samurai. Iseya is deliciously over the top and increasingly ridiculous all the way up to an inspired final scene. It’s one of the few times that the film subverts samurai film conventions instead of embracing them, and all the more hilarious because of it.
While this new straightforward direction for Miike is interesting, he plays it a bit too broad. The beginning is all exposition, with most of the characters coming right out and telling you what their motivations are. Worse, the majority of the sporadic humor is Sandler-level lazy.
Yes, using bad CGI is unquestionably better than blowing up real horses or setting real bulls aflame, but it’s still bad CGI.
You’re more likely to find the 126 minute version of this if you’re an Anglophone, but if you do watch the 141 minute version, add or subtract a beer depending on how you feel about an extra fifteen minutes of unnecessary exposition with some anal rape comedy sprinkled in.
Oh, Takashi Miike, you scamp, you!
I was hoping for a bit more all around, but there’s no denying this film succeeds in delivering what’s important: kick-ass samurai action.
Bonus Drinking Game
I’d recommend Body Count Bingo, but you’d die.
Take a Drink: every time someone draws an edged weapon
Take a Drink: every time someone swears or makes a promise
Do a Shot: for females without eyebrows. Ffuuu…!