Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: 13 Assassins (Jusan-nin no shikaku) [2011]

Release Date: 29 April 2011 (USA)
Directed By: Takashi Miike
Written By: Kaneo Ikagami, Daisuke Tengan
Starring: Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Masachika Ichimura
In A Nutshell:
A remake of a 1963 movie by Eiichi Kudo, 13 Assassins tells the story of a group of unemployed samurai who are gathered together for the mission to kill an evil and sadistic lord who is next in line to be the Shogun. It is an almost impossible mission as there are only 13 of them, while the evil lord, Naritsugu (played by Goro Inagaki), will be protected by an entire army lead by veteran samurai, Hanbei (Masachika Ichimura).
Thumbs Up:
+ Superbly epic 45-minute climatic battle scene with very minimal (not noticeable to the eye) CGI
+ Lord Naritsugu makes for an awesome villain as he is beyond evil and transcends the very notion of cruelty, yet somehow still believable
+ Like many of the things inspired by Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai [1954] in this movie, each samurai here has a distinct personality with my personal favourite being Hirayama (played by Tsuyoshi Ihara). He just oozes coolness.
Thumbs Down:
- While holding the advantage in the climatic battle scene by having higher ground and use of bows and arrows, the samurai opt to go down and engage in sword fights. Film-wise, this makes for cool action, but defies any believable reason for the characters to do so in reality
- The final one-on-one showdown between Shinzaemon (played by Koji Yakusho) and Hanbei (played by Masachika Ichimura) feel like lacking the sheer climatic awesomeness needed especially considering how grand the rest of the action was

The Verdict Is In:
13 Assassins boasts a strong story, great directing and acting, while the electrifying 45-minute finale is one of the most thrilling battle sequence in recent memory. Not only is it beautifully choreographed, but observe carefully and you'll notice a story being carefully told with each connecting vignette. These days the use of CGI is a must in every movie, and I'm sure the fight sequences here also did too, but they were unnoticeable to the eye. Its as almost as they were none used at all. That's a lesson to recent movies such as The Immortals [2011] and Sucker Punch [2011], in that you don't need to overuse CGI to create engaging battles.
8.5 out of 10

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