Film Review: Takashi Miike’s ‘13 Assassins’ Presents Ballet of Blood
CHICAGO – You will see a lot of movies this season that don’t deliver on their set-up. Whether it’s because they’re setting up the audience for another installment in a blockbuster franchise or just the fact that movies made by big studio committees often drop the ball, it’s simply a fact. Whatever one can say about Takashi Miike’s “13 Assassins,” opening this weekend at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago and currently available On Demand, it absolutely, undeniably delivers the goods. And those goods are soaked in blood.
If you’re unfamiliar with the prolific Miike, he earned a stateside following with a series of ultra-violent films and became a critical darling after releasing the terrifying “Audition.” With the kind of output that matches most entire studios, Takashi Miike has continued to make interesting films but only a handful make an impact in the U.S. Honestly, I kind of assumed that Miike’s best days were behind him (that cameo in “Hostel” didn’t help) and thought that if he made waves it would be for a retrospective or rerelease of an older film instead of something new. I was wrong. “13 Assassins” is a total blast and proof that Miike hasn’t lost a step. It’s one of his most confident, assured, and successful films.
|Read Brian Tallerico’s full review of “13 Assassins” in our reviews section.|
“13 Assassins” takes place near the end of the time of the Samurai. One could even go as far as to suggest that the dilemma at the core of the film was indicative of why the noble warrior went the way of the dinosaur. How can one be noble in times of corruption and evil? Historically, the Samurai would give his life to protect his Lord. But what if said Lord was a psychopathic maniac?
Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki) is a power-hungry sociopath. The opening act of “13 Assassins” sets up the villain of the piece in brutal, graphic ways. We learn that he rapes, kills, and mutilates at will. We see him shoot an arrow through a child and see the evidence of his mutilation and torture of a woman. Someone else who sees the evidence is the noble Shinzaemon (a fantastic Koji Yakusho) and, after much consideration, he has had enough. He will gather a team of men and they will kill Lord Naritsugu. To do so, they force him into a trap-filled village and the final hour of the film consists entirely of the ambush, fight, and carnage that ensue.
Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures