- Genre: Action
- Cert: 16
- Details: Japan/UK / 126mins .
- Release Date: 06/05/2011
The Japan of 1844 is a land of peace but Lord Naritsugu (Inagaki) moves to impose his own kind of chaos. A power-hungry despot, Naritsugu has massacred villages and has a penchant for humiliating his victims before killing them: the wife of a faithful servant is raped before he is run through; another has her limbs and tongue cut off after her village is massacred. When news arrives that Naritsugu plans to leave Edo (Tokyo) for the province of Akashi, his enemies move to stop him when he's at his most vulnerable. Honourable samurai Shinzaemon (Yakusho) is employed with the task and rounds up twelve samurais to help. They take over a small village and wait for Naritsugu's two-hundred strong army to arrive...
There's a lot of set up involved with 13 Assassins as Miike moves to introduce the era, the good guys and the bad guys - his pre-credit title sequence throws information at the viewer all too quickly as names, dates and opposing provinces come thick and fast. After that there is the thirteen to get to know, which is the film's major problem: only Shinzaemon is given any depth and even then all we really know is that he is an honourable man looking for a cause-worthy death in an era of peace. On the opposite side are Shinzaemon's former friend Hanbei (Ichimura), looking to prove his worth in his friend's eyes, and the one-note cartoonish evil of Naritsugu. The lack of familiarity with the characters stops the action sequence from having the necessary drama when bodies start dropping like flies.
And drop like flies they do. Action fans will delight, as swords slice, bombs explode, buildings fall and guts protrude in the most violent sequence of the year so far. A homage to Akira Kurosawa, this loose remake should appeal to arthouse lovers and mainstream action fans. It's a shame a little character development was considered surplus to requirements.
Review by Gavin Burke | 09:00 | Friday 6th May 2011 | Movie Review
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