Movie News

Mr. Beaks Falls In With Takashi Miike's Masterful 13 ASSASSINS!

Published at: March 25, 2011, 5:53 p.m. CST

 

Takashi Miike is but seconds into his chanbara epic 13 ASSASSINS when he springs on his audience the daunting sight of a samurai assuming the seiza position and laying out in front of him all the accoutrement necessary for committing harakiri. This is a messy errand regardless of who's directing, but in the hands of the man responsible for AUDITION and ICHI THE KILLER (you've either seen them or slept peacefully the last decade), the carnage could be unprecedented. That the man about to go a-diggin' in his midsection plans to do so without the assistance of a second only elevates the tension; if he's less than precise in his technique, there will be no one there to administer a merciful decapitation.

Finally, after careful preparation, the samurai plunges in the blade - and here's where Miike does something positively un-Miike-like: he holds on the man's determined visage as he manipulates the steel in the prescribed manner. Though the textured sound design holds nothing back (leaving plenty to the imagination), Miike's primary concern is the man's emotional anguish. There's a fury in his actions. He's sending a message. And once he completes the ritual, Miike cuts to an overhead angle as that message floods from his suddenly lifeless body. This motherfucker died for something.

Based on the 1963 Eiichi Kudo film of the same title, Miike's 13 ASSASSINS is, in tone and sheer physical scale, a stunning departure for the prolific director. It's a invigoratingly straightforward narrative about revenge, honor and the preservation of peace through "total massacre". Of course, there are perverse, Miike-esque flourishes sprinkled throughout the movie, but he's mostly paying tribute to the classical samurai cinema of Kudo, Masaki Kobayashi, Kenji Misumi and, unavoidably, Akira Kurosawa - and, no hyperbole, meeting them on their vaunted level. This is Miike returning to the precise formal control of AUDITION (some of which was on display in the undervalued IMPRINT), and it's an inspiring reminder that when he's not indulging every lunatic creative whim, he's one of our most talented filmmakers working today.

Following that striking opening sequence, Miike gracefully goes about setting up the the dire political situation of the day: Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (Goro Inagaki), the psychotic brother of the reigning shogun, is merrily killing off innocent civilians while the samurai under his command helplessly (yet dutifully) do nothing. Naritsugu is a nasty, conscienceless piece of work, prone to torturing and murdering whole families for sport. Sometimes, he spares his victims; this is the case with a defiant young woman, who - despite having her arms, legs and tongue severed - clamps down on a paintbrush and issues the blood-curdling edict for vengeance which drives the film to its calamitous conclusion.

"Total Massacre."

The responsibility for masterminding the assassination falls to Shinzaemon Shimada (Koji Yakusho), an aging samurai who owes no loyalty to Naritsugu. With his nephew Shinrouko (Takayuki Yamada), Shinzaemon gradually recruits the team of expert killers who will hopefully keep Japan from being sadistically plunged into war for war's sake. There's a pleasing familiarity to the first two acts of 13 ASSASSINS: everyone - from Miike to screenwriter Daisuke Tengan to the talented group of actors - seems aware that this is their chance to spin a classic "men on a mission" yarn, and they throw themselves into the production with infectious gusto. This film has been done dozens of times since SEVEN SAMURAI, but not with Miike's grand guignol sense of humor nor his gleeful critique of vigilantism (which consistently - if mildly - undercuts one's enjoyment of the bloodletting).

And it's been a long goddamn time since anyone's had the audacity or, most importantly, the craft to stage a forty-minute (guesstimated) siege like Miike pulls off in the final act of 13 ASSASSINS. Dear god, is this a doozy of a set piece! It's 200 of Naritsugu's men against the lethal thirteen - and, as in all great "men on a mission" movies, we've become so attached to the latter that we can't conceive of losing a single one to enemy steel. But this will happen. Seemingly invincible warriors will be cut down in the name of vanquishing a vile tyrant. And the sting of this is twofold in that (spoiler!) they're never close to taking him out, and Naritsugu's getting off on the mayhem he's occasioned.

Some have observed that Miike's film works as a wholesale subversion of the samurai picture, but while there's certainly a satiric sensibility at play in the lengthy climactic battle, the central conflict is still, at its core, basically good versus evil. 13 ASSASSINS is a largely conventional movie in which morally questionable men refuse to stand by while an absolute evil (born of unchecked privilege) preys on the weak. Nothing terribly novel here. But it's all carried off with such extraordinarily rare aplomb that it would be foolish to ding it for reveling in its own excess. Does Miike personally buy into any of this? Fuck if I care. All that matters is what's up on the screen - and 13 ASSASSINS is a stone-cold, limb-severin', bull-burnin' masterpiece.

Faithfully submitted,

Mr. Beaks

 

 

P.S. 13 ASSASSINS hits VOD on March 25th. While I'm thrilled you will all have the opportunity to see this remarkable movie this month, it pisses me off to no end that it'll only receive a token theatrical release on April 29th. This is a big-screen movie. It's meant to be seen with a crowd. Whatever. When you shell out $10 to watch this at home, be sure to invite your friends, turn out the lights, and keep your smart phones pocketed for the duration.

Readers Talkback

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  • March 14, 2011, 11:44 p.m. CST

    first!

    by MrSTK

    cant wait for this

  • March 14, 2011, 11:46 p.m. CST

    oh yeah.

    by Anakin_Piecocker

  • March 14, 2011, 11:59 p.m. CST

    This was not shot on film, correct?

    by MooseMalloy

    May explain why it's not getting wider release. Still looking forward to it.

  • March 15, 2011, 12:03 a.m. CST

    ichi the killer?

    by Spanky

    best movie evah! gotta see this one~

  • Speaking of slaying, reading Nordling's review and then this one back to back is comical. Mr. Beaks is doing shit justice.

  • March 15, 2011, 1 a.m. CST

    Well I really hope we get more movies from Japan.

    by UltraTron

    My theory that aliens are actually mutated humans from the future keeps coming true. They come back in time to anal probe us for destroying the world. And mutilate our cattle because they know we love a good burger.

  • March 15, 2011, 1:22 a.m. CST

    never saw audition...

    by The Dum Guy

    ichi was an experience that I haven't rewatched.

  • March 15, 2011, 1:44 a.m. CST

    Thanks halfbreed

    by MooseMalloy

    Could have sworn it looked like HD from the trailers on youtube. Just goes to show you how a DI can suck the life out of film.

  • March 15, 2011, 2:17 a.m. CST

    GOZU is his best

    by Mel

    Is there a more fucked up movie? i think not.

  • March 15, 2011, 3:33 a.m. CST

    nice poster

    by servnjstice

    reminds me of Paul Pope's work

  • March 15, 2011, 5:20 a.m. CST

    sound design holds nothing back (leaving plenty to the imagination)

    by Monkey Butler

    Those things are opposites.

  • March 15, 2011, 6:11 a.m. CST

    Oh Boy!

    by NeonFrisbee

    Yay! Another Miike film! Can't wait!

  • March 15, 2011, 6:14 a.m. CST

    Anyone Ever See "Imprint"

    by NeonFrisbee

    Miike did for that Showtime Masters of Horror thing? It's not the best thing he's done, and the acting is *terrible* -- nearly everyone speaks in this weird, phonetic english -- but it's also really, REALLY intense. The extended torture scene in it makes the one in "Audition" look comparably tame. There's whole bunch of other surreal, transgressive, horrific goings on as well. And it's only an hour long! Cinemax reportedly wouldn't air it as it was just too extreme. Recommended.

  • March 15, 2011, 6:31 a.m. CST

    Thank goodness guys like takashi miike are still out there...

    by Toruk_Makto

    they keep the film world from completely festering into a pile of redundant shit. Now give him and his ilk EVERY comic book property and watch how the fuck it's supposed to be done!

  • March 15, 2011, 7:14 a.m. CST

    Takashi Miike, one of the top best directors alive.

    by AsimovLives

    I have DVDs of his movies GOZU, ICHI THE KILLER, AUDITION and the DEAD OR ALIVE trilogy. All great stuff. Damn good director.

  • Fact.

  • March 15, 2011, 9:28 a.m. CST

    Please stop reminding me about "Imprint"

    by spacehog

    Good grief, I've seen so much brutality, both real and fake (thanks internet!), and plenty of other Miike films probably best it for sheer gore and horror and whatnot, but "Imprint" is what I can't get out of my head when I can't sleep at night.

  • March 15, 2011, 10:34 a.m. CST

    Sorry, spacehog

    by NeonFrisbee

    But seriously, "Imprint" often isn't mentioned when people speak of Miike's oeuvre, and it's (arguably) his most brutal and transgressive film. Not his *best* per se, but most brutal.

  • March 15, 2011, 1:37 p.m. CST

    audition

    by JaredP

    frightening film. that was one scary sexy chick

  • March 15, 2011, 2:42 p.m. CST

    Imprint made my girlfriend cry

    by bottombrick

    She could not continue watching it. asimovlives, you should check out Visitor Q. It is definitely Gozu and Ichi tier Miike, the crescendo of absurdity and pitch black comedy is unmatched in film.

  • March 15, 2011, 4 p.m. CST

    I'm enjoying the praise for Imprint.

    by Azby

    It's often slated, but it was freakin' terrifying. That talking hand thing...eugh...

  • March 15, 2011, 4:01 p.m. CST

    writefortheedit

    by AsimovLives

    Certainly it is the most leftfield ending ever made.

  • March 15, 2011, 4:02 p.m. CST

    bottombrick

    by AsimovLives

    Wow!! I have to check it out, then. Thanks for the heads up, friend.

  • March 15, 2011, 4:05 p.m. CST

    halfbreedqueen

    by AsimovLives

    It seems that Miike can do any movie in any genre. Even though he's mostly known in the west for his extreme movies, he also has made a lot of family movies and light comedies as well. The man has done EVERYTHING! I'm at awe of his talent.

  • March 15, 2011, 4:42 p.m. CST

    by hooventood

    Why would you spoil the ending like that? It didn't need to be said. Thanks alot

  • March 15, 2011, 4:45 p.m. CST

    Miike is unusually brilliant AND prolific.

    by fustfick

    Usually it's years between movies for my favorite filmmakers. But Miike cranks out a few EACH year! This guy is seriously the real deal. I can't wait to check this one out. Oh, and "Izo" is his true masterpiece. I recommend it to everyone who loves movies.

  • March 15, 2011, 5:42 p.m. CST

    Izo Was Amazing

    by NeonFrisbee

    I saw it a few years back at the Philly Film Fest and loved it. I liked it more than Gozu (which was also great). It is fascinating how prolific, varied, and good he is. I can't wait until someone throws Hollywood money at him and lets him go nuts on a blockbuster budget.

  • March 15, 2011, 8:44 p.m. CST

    The real question about 13 Assassins:

    by Losers_Game

    Will the OD be dubbed or have subtitles? What have the theatrical prints been?

  • March 16, 2011, 3:17 a.m. CST

    Magnolia Pictures

    by PorkChopXpress

    They are making a lot of money with the "rent it now before it's in theaters" tagline on these smaller movies that aren't worth releasing wide, theatrically. People are intrigued by the idea that they can watch a movie on demand before it hits theaters...regardless of whether it will only show on 50 art house screens, nationwide. Also read a comment from someone who thinks there's some correlation between shooting on film and getting a wide theatrical release. There isn't. This is a small foreign movie that would not do well in wide release, so Magnolia is playing it smart and MAKING money instead of wasting it.

  • March 17, 2011, 4:27 a.m. CST

    Saw this at last year's London Film Festival

    by Cat_Corporation

    And I can also report, it's fuckin' awesome. The scene with the mutilated girl writing with the pen in her mouth is a real sucker punch, you could have heard a pin drop in the cinema. And the siege at the end is just magnificent. One of the assassins in particular is a standout, unfortunately I can't remember his character's name and there aren't many pictures of the cast on IMDb, but you'll know who I mean when you watch it - he's a one-man war machine, cool as a cucumber. I can't recommend it highly enough, it got a big round of applause at the end. What a shame it doesn't seem to be getting a cinema release in the US, it's due out here in the UK in May and I hope it does come, I'll definitely be going to see it again. Enjoy!

  • March 17, 2011, 5:33 a.m. CST

    losers_game

    by Cat_Corporation

    The print I saw had subtitles, but we very rarely seem to have dubbed films shown in cinemas here in the UK.

  • March 25, 2011, 5:58 p.m. CST

    asimovlives: You're alive! I thought you got banned.

    by D Ropaela

    And that you were now going around as "assymuffjizz".

  • March 25, 2011, 6:02 p.m. CST

    Asimovlives

    by THE_CHOPPAH

    have you been avoiding SUCKERPUNCH threads in protest? Thoughts? I must have your thoughts sir.

  • March 25, 2011, 6:03 p.m. CST

    I'm skipping the spoilers

    by schadenfreudian

    Because I am very, very excited to see this.

  • March 25, 2011, 6:06 p.m. CST

    Another genious director: Takashi Miike

    by Der Aggravated Piscine

    He doesn't need to make masterpieces in a row to be seen as one of the top best directors working today.

  • March 25, 2011, 6:07 p.m. CST

    Fuck Miike

    by Jaster

    I had heard for years and years what a fucking horror master he was. Then I saw his Masters Of Horror episode and it was totally fucking retarded. I've still not seen any of his other stuff but others have told me they had the same experience with Audition. I'm sorry but the cover for Itchi the Killer is just too dumb for me to make me want to see it. For anyone not following so far... FUCK MIIKE!

  • March 25, 2011, 6:08 p.m. CST

    Asi!

    by Der Aggravated Piscine

    Missed you, man!

  • March 25, 2011, 6:11 p.m. CST

    Asi Rules.

    by Darth_Kong

  • March 25, 2011, 6:13 p.m. CST

    Imagine a Crow movie directed by Takashi Miike?

    by AssyMuffJizz

    That would be the pure awesomeness. The movie would be so bugnuts it would be sublime. And he can do action too.

  • March 25, 2011, 6:15 p.m. CST

    Can't wait.

    by FlickaPoo

  • March 25, 2011, 6:20 p.m. CST

    Gozu

    by AssyMuffJizz

    I own a Gozu movie DVD. That is one fucked up movie, manI I love it. Takashi Miike is god!

  • March 25, 2011, 6:31 p.m. CST

    Asi posted the other day in the DUNE thread. I don't get it?

    by Darth_Kong

  • March 25, 2011, 6:34 p.m. CST

    Matbe this has to do with my banning?

    by AssyMuffJizz

    Wierd shit. Fuck's sake!

  • March 25, 2011, 6:37 p.m. CST

    assymuffjizz: I must say, your devotion to this, um, role is impressive.

    by WriteForTheEdit

    Most impressive.

  • March 25, 2011, 6:43 p.m. CST

    assymuffjizz

    by AssyMuffJizz

    Its is my own fault for not choosing a better aname. I thought it seems now incorrectly that assymuffjizz would be apropriately ironic. But now I have many people not believing i am me, I wish that this problem with my old esrename would get resolved soon. I can still read my old messagegs thugh so maybe I'm not banned after all.

  • March 25, 2011, 6:51 p.m. CST

    Asi-DATA. Is he or isn't he BANNED? I don't think so.

    by Darth_Kong

    Asimovlives posted this on Thursday in the DUNE thread: Mar 24, 2011 5:12:53 AM CDT I'm not against a new DUNE movie. I'd love to see a new movie take on the classic novel. What i don't mwant is a new movie made by an hack like Peter Berg or any other of his ilk. by asimovlives Giant Robot Thread was EARLIER on Monday where we thought he was banned: Giant Robot has Organized a Great (Star Trek) Prize for an Even Better Cause (Assisting UNICEF in Japan)... And Deadline is Tonight Published on: Mar 21, 2011 2:49:47 PM CDT I don't know for a FACT if he's banned but I suspect he isn't.

  • March 25, 2011, 6:55 p.m. CST

    Maybe Asi is just fucking with us by using both names.

    by D Ropaela

    He's been picked on a lot on these boards, and he seems like a clever guy, so I wouldn't rule that out, either.

  • fuckin a.

  • March 25, 2011, 8:05 p.m. CST

    why cant they talk him into doing an american movie?

    by john

    this guy does so much, with so little shoulda handed him the xmen franchise

  • March 25, 2011, 8:26 p.m. CST

    ichi the killer

    by elsewhere

    Saw this a couple of weeks ago and the whole time I kept thinking it was ripping off The Dark Knight. Only later did I learn Ichi was made several years before The Dark Knight. Weird.

  • March 25, 2011, 9:38 p.m. CST

    $15 for a HD RENTAL!?!??! Fuck that.

    by Mel

    I'll be pirating this one. Theres no way im paying $15 to rent a movie. thats ridiculous.

  • March 25, 2011, 9:59 p.m. CST

    What are the odds he'll end up with The Wolverine?

    by kevred

    I'm pretty sure I know the answer to that. But it never hurts to ask.

  • March 25, 2011, 11:19 p.m. CST

    One of the most intense third acts I've ever seen!

    by kungfuhustler84

  • March 25, 2011, 11:19 p.m. CST

    here is the English subtitled trailer:

    by BadMrWonka

  • March 25, 2011, 11:19 p.m. CST

    er...here:

    by BadMrWonka

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeEq1qR8qiw looks pretty damn fun. but yeah, I really want to see this on the big screen with proper sound. the sound design seems phenomenal, even just on the youtube trailer.

  • March 25, 2011, 11:22 p.m. CST

    wolverine!!

    by rhizomeman

    Holy shit kevred!!! That is actually an awesome idea!! Seriously, that could work.

  • March 25, 2011, 11:27 p.m. CST

    writefortheedit

    by D.Vader

    That's my fucking line you just stole.

  • March 25, 2011, 11:59 p.m. CST

    13 Assassins. Miike's A History of Violence?

    by MrMajestic

    Man I haven't seen this yet but I hope this is his "A History of Violence". Cronenberg had been doing his off-kilter movies for years and then he pulled AHOV out of his backside and reminded everyone just how talented a director he is. I mean Miike like Cronenberg has got all the talent in the world but was doing stuff that just amused them and their fans. Really often just incestually masturbatory stuff. I don't mean jerking off to Imprint or Crash but as in he seems to be more concerned with amusing himself rather than the wide audience.

  • March 26, 2011, 12:50 a.m. CST

    How's the bloodshed in this?

    by Megan_Foxs_RoboHerpes

    Is it all spraying like a house like older samurai films or is it more realistic?

  • March 26, 2011, 2:20 a.m. CST

    he could do wolverine

    by john

    he has done family oriented stuff...so it doesnt have to be over the top but would be better if it was a real r rated masterpiece

  • March 26, 2011, 2:24 a.m. CST

    Why are there posts from March 15th in this thread

    by Frank Conniff

    Why are AsimovLives and AssyMuffJizz both here? Has the whole world gone crazy!?

  • March 26, 2011, 8:57 a.m. CST

    Fuck SUCKERPUNCH!!!

    by samuraiyao

    I mean I'll fuck them in their asshole with my big headed cock but 13 Assassins is the movie to see on the fucking big screen!!!

  • March 26, 2011, 12:29 p.m. CST

    d.vader

    by WriteForTheEdit

    Did i? My apologies. But it really is impressive. (That's the line you're referring to, right?)

  • March 27, 2011, 6:53 p.m. CST

    Now this is a great director!

    by Professor_Bedlam

    A man with a vision and the talent to make it all work and happen! I wish he was directing here in the US. But then again the ass holes in Hollywood wouldn't understand true talent if it kicked them in the ass!

  • March 28, 2011, 12:09 p.m. CST

    Masterfull

    by eck_iii

    I just watched this On Demand (9.99 for the HD version). I was hooked from the opening. This is an homage to the great, classic samurai films. Miike has one foot in the past and one foot firmly in the present. He's dark touches are evident, but this is not a typical Miike film like "Audition" or "Ichi the Killer. I don't want to say more, because if you can see this on the big screen do so. The amazing final battle is one of the best shot and cut action sequences ever put to film. It is not confusingly quick cut until your brain hurts. It is stunning, amazing. Great, great film-making!

  • March 28, 2011, 12:25 p.m. CST

    Meganfoxs

    by Rebeck2

    The bloodshed is actually pretty tame (or, as you say, more realistic) through most of the film, and once you get past two gruesome scenes at the beginning - which are necessary so that you reeeeeeeallllly want this villain to die - it's not stomach-turning or anything. There's a couple beheadings, but they are done with old-fashioned style. In fact there's one great shot where a man committing hara-kiri and his second beheads him but all you see is the sword flying through the guy's neck in the blink of an eye and the head still on. Very cool.