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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 5 February 2014
This is a beautifully crafted battle movie in the times of the Samurais. Think Tarantino, Peckinpah, Kurosawa but revised and updated. Whirlwind action, great battle scenes, a credible (bad-bad) villain, intelligent dialogues (a debate on the duty of a samurai: to stay loyal to and defend his lord however bad he behaves or to defend his oppressed subjects?), including comic relief punctuating the action in the person of a irreverent dilettante drifter who joins the 12 rebels and proves to be a gem.
Very entertaining and beautifully shot.
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on 2 November 2014
NO SPOILERS

I've never seen a "samurai" film except for the Last Samurai with Tom cruise so I wasn't sure if it was my type of film but I decided to buy it due to recommendations and the bargain price. I must say that it was amazing with pretty spectacular acting even down to the child that was tied up. The cinematography was really well done and you can imagine that this was set in the 1800s easily. I would recommend it on blu-ray for the landscapes. The main actors are well written, and funny at times which you can't see from the trailer and because they are such good actors you start to care about the 13 and view them as real people and not invincible soldiers.

There is a lot of violence as you can imagine with some harrowing scenes but they don't really seem exploitative like Tarantino's films and are more to show the brutality of the time and are realistic. The last hour is amazing and just flies by.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 January 2012
13 Assassins is a remake of an old black and white samurai film with Takashi Miike directing. I am new to the film and to Miike so this is a great introduction to both. The set-up is simple. Corrupt and evil young lord is hunted down by 13 samurai who know that they must succeed or else their lands will eventually be under the control of the young heir. Their mission isn't legal and their mark knows they are coming.

The first half (just over actually) is a set-up for the final 50 minutes. Its dialogue heavy and covers the formation of the 13 and their plans to ambush their mark and his troops. If there is one criticism of the first half then it would be that not all the characters are fleshed out enough that you discern them in the last part. However, its brilliantly shot and paced. Pace is something this film does well. Then once our 13 have set the trap we get to the second half of the film. The last fifty minutes. I read that the last fifty minutes was an extended fight sequence and struggled to believe this. Having watched it I can vouch that it is a thrilling, bloody and brilliant battle that lasts throughout with pace and planning. The whole sequence works and it is incredibly well planned and executed. Whilst its hard to follow the characters at times it fizzes along with an ever increasing body count until we get to the conclusion. Its hard not to feel a little dazed by the whole battle at the end.

The film works on two levels. Firstly it shows the cultural side of the era and also the slow paced political manoeuvrings that happened. In the first half this really worked for me and I enjoyed that aspect a lot. However, when the film cuts loose it really does so with style and vision and you are left in awe of the production planning. If you don't mind subtitles and blood and want something other than a traditional action film then you will be well served by this and can certainly do worse than investing your time and money in watching 13 Assassins.
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on 13 May 2011
Though most media reviews seem to focus on the 45 minute battle sequence, this does 13 Assassins a disservice. The opening 1hr 15mins are what makes this film - they build up the tension, set-up the characters and emotionally connect you to their plight in a way that too many samurai films (chanbara) fail to do. The fact Miike achieves this with 15 major characters (the 13 assassins, Lord Naritsugu and Hanbei Kitou) most of whom you actually learn little or nothing about is testimony to his skill. The atrocities committed by Naritsugu are captured on screen perfectly - we rarely see the acts themselves, but the consequences are unveiled (quite literally in one case) before our eyes in a brutual realism that allows us to understand why the ultimate mission must succeed.

Without being a hypocrite - the final battle is stunning. Its length could all too easily undermine it, however Miike has created a sequence in which the action is relentless yet intelligent. You always understand where each character is and at which stage of the plan they are - yet very little is actually said. The part with the building made the whole cinema gasp.

Rarely have I finished a film and been so desperate to watch it again immediately.

I only hope its limited UK release does not stop too many people getting to experience what I hope will become a future classic for cinephiles.
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on 1 July 2012
I have seen many samurai films and many of Takashi Miike's films. As a director I have found him to be very inconsistent. I thought Audition is a great film and I also enjoyed The Happiness of the Katakuris, Dead Or Alive and Graveyard of Honor. I hated Gozu and thought Sukiyaka Western was just terrible. With 13 Assassins it seems that the director has finally grown up and delivered arguably his best work. A group of skilled samurai undertake a suicidal mission to kill a sadistic Lord and in the climatic showdown must fight his army of hundreds of men. The first two thirds of the film build the story, characters and suspsense artfully. It is well acted and shot in a classic style with excellent cinematography. The Lord is shown at his most merciless raping and killing for pure sadistic enjoyment. In the last forty minute or so we are treated to one of the most epic and brilliantly staged battle scenes ever put on film. It is relentless, bloody, realistic (mostly) and moving. Miike handles the action superbly without ever reverting to the rather adolescent shock tactics or silliness that have spoiled some of his other films. I enjoyed every minute of this film and it is now on of my all-time favourites. The only minor flaw is a slightly dodgy CGI shot of cattle on fire (yes, that's what I said) but it's a minor quibble. A wonderful film.
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on 9 June 2015
Ok... this is a good film... the fight scenes are great,
and we have a real evil villain, who really needs a killing!
But... (and it is a sad BUT)... the ending???... WTF!...
Confused??? I was...
OK... I am not going to spoil the ending, to an otherwise great
movie... But really?... I was confused when I first saw it, and
as of last night, still confused... this brilliant action packed,
Samurai film, has a bad ending, that for me, spoils the whole film.
A real pity... because, they are few Samurai films that get produced,
that are shown in the west, especially in the UK, and that is why, I
always go back to Kurosawa... having said that, this is still a good
movie... but????
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on 11 April 2013
One of my favourite Samurai films, great action, stunning sets and very well directed. A great addition to any collection
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on 26 September 2014
This film is a good watch, its a little slow to begin with but by the end you'll be watching it intensely, the final half of the film is one of the best fight scenes I've seen in a long time.
The plot is your basic revenge story with the group fighting to kill an evil lord, each one has their own unique way of fighting against the larger forces of the lords bodyguards, upon entering a village they are subjected to a brutal ambush by the assassins using weapons and booby-traps which as I mentioned leads to some of the best fight scenes I've seen in a long time. Well worth the buy
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HALL OF FAMEon 26 February 2012
It's the old, old story...a small group of men we come to know are willing to die for a noble cause, and die they do, fighting against the odds, sacrificing themselves for honor and justice. Just as we probably wouldn't do. They still make us tear up. Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins owes much to the story of the 47 ronin. The story still works, whether it's the 47 ronin, those seven samurai or Robert Taylor and his 13 buddies on Bataan.

Look upon 13 Assassins as a movie with four acts, set in Japan in the middle of the 19th century. The Tokugawa shogunate is decaying, falling apart because of outdated customs, calcified hereditary government, corruption and too many armed warriors with sharp swords and nothing much to do after nearly three centuries of peace. There's a weak, disengaged shogun; his ambitious, cruel and probably psychopathic younger half brother who pushes the envelope when it comes to other men's wives and his own servants, who soon will move into a position of power; a samurai of honor and bravery who is recruited to end the young man's career permanently; the 12 men he recruits to assist him; and how it all ends. No love stories, no sex.

Act one: We see what a monster Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu is. For an attractive-looking and privileged young man, even Jack the Ripper might find off-putting his ways of relaxing through rape and murder. He gives sadism a bad name.

Act two: We meet Shinzaemon Shimada (Koji Yakusho), an experienced, tired and trusted samurai. We follow how he is recruited by those high in the government, how he recruits 11 others (along the way a mountain peasant will join them), and how he sets his traps to attack the young psycho as Naritsugu and his warriors travel from Edo to Naritsugu's clan province.

Act three: A 50-minute battle that leaves just about everyone in sight slashed, burned or exploded to death.

Act four: A better world...maybe.

Yes, the story is a cliché. Miike, however, has delivered a movie of excellent craftsmanship. He immediately sets the point of the movie with a scene of queasy but not gory seppuku, and develops why this act leads to the assassination plot. For the most part, the 13 assassins are well-defined enough that the audience is drawn to them, and is saddened at their inevitable and noble deaths. Miike presents a vision of feudal Japan, its leadership, the county and its life that is realistic as well as beautifully photographed. The action may be brutal but the views are first-rate. He handles the long, climatic battle with mastery. This action is set in the village of Ochiai, a village of death Shinzaemon calls it, where he and his 12 fellows meet head on Matsudaira and his 200 retainers, considerably more than they expected. Shinzaemon and his men have laced the village with deathly, unexpected traps that surprise the opposing samurai as much as they surprise the audience. It's 50 minutes of rousing sword-slashing action, the few against the many, with each assassin having his moment of bravery while he cuts down or blows up dozens. Miike hurtles the action along and he is skilled enough not to lose the clarity of how the long battle proceeds.

Two quibbles, one serious. Whoever wrote the subtitles did a disservice to the movie by using American vernacular far too often. Informal phrases that we wouldn't notice in a contemporary American film are jarring when supposedly coming from the mouths of samurai in the 1840s. "Listen up" is only one of several examples.

At the end we're also faced with the question, is one of the 13 a ghost or simply a hardy survivor of a sword thrust through the neck and abdomen? Miike says it could be either, and either way a viewer might take it is fine with him. I feel it's either sloppy or pretentious directing, bringing in an unneeded question at the end of a very good movie.

For those who admire and have enjoyed this movie, I recommend they watch Chushingura (1962), a nearly 3-1/2 hour telling of the story of the 47 ronin.

The DVD of 13 Assassins includes an interview with Miike by a constantly smiling and deferential young woman who lobs easy questions. Miike at one point says, "This is not an action film, but a drama." He's right. For all the action, the movie has a pervasive feeling of something like sadness and inevitability. But later Miike says, "When a sword hits another sword, it's not about metal hitting against metal. It's someone's soul battling another soul." Shades of Mishima. The truth probably lies among Lord Matsudaira's last words. As he says, "It hurts."
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This is a very Japanese film with many overtones of the Seven Samurai. Our heroes endure the first half of the film coming up with a scheme to kill the Shogun's half-brother, a sadist. The intricacies of Samurai honour explaining this time requirement. Then off for the final battle in the Japanese equivalent of a shoot-out as the 13 Assassins make mincemeat (or otherwise) of the sadist's guards. There is a higher body-count than in TAKEN and the suicides rival a scene or two of the DIE UNTERGANG. It is an exceedingly grim film, lightened only by the athleticism of the combat scenes.
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