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13 Assassins


13 Assassins

The odds for these heroes seem impossible; they are only 13 and Lord Naritsugu fields at least 200 against them. Miike spares us the whimsy that 13 good men can defeat 200 evil ones, and has his samurai rig an entire village as a trap. It's clear this is planned, but the details remain vague, and when the surprises begin, it would be logical, I think, to ask exactly how the assassins found the time and resources to marshal such an elaborate ambush. Logical, but not fair; you don't ask questions like that in movies that require your belief.

There is a subtext in the film. The 13 assassins are essentially making a last stand for the traditional samurai code. Modern times are encroaching on Japan, and the shogunate is corrupt, decadent and a hive of nepotism. I was reminded in a lateral way of Yamata's "Twilight Samurai" (2004), a very good film set in 1868, about a samurai who works for his clan as an accountant, and is forced to recall the code of his tradition.

In this one....a group of 13 assassins come together for a suicide mission to kill a very evil lord. This is an excellent movie. The old saying is.....your movie is only as good as the villain. 13 Assassins presents one of the most evil movie characters ever. The bad guy in this, thinks nothing of raping women, killing children, torturing people and thinks starting a "new age of war" would be fun. By the end of the first 10 minutes you will feel ready to help take this guy down!

From the ranks of underemployed samurai, Shinzaemon recruits aposse and gives them the spiel about dying for a noble cause. Butexcept for a nephew he lures from a brothel and a tag-along drunkwho serves the same irreverent function as Toshiro Mifune in "SevenSamurai," the assassins are hard to distinguish.

There's a class system at work here though. No one dares stand up to Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki). His loyal army is willing to die to defend him. Sir Doi (Mikijiro Hira) is the only one who plans to stand up to him, but he needs some help. He recruits samurai Shinzaemon Shimada (Koji Yakusho). Shimada then recruits enough lone samurais for a group of 12 assassins (the 13th assassin isn't added until halfway through the movie for a bit of comic relief). Understanding the great risk that this group of samurais is taking is of the utmost importance. Thirteen going up against 200. It's a suicide mission in their eyes, but they're willing to do it if it means they have a chance to rid the country of evil.

The last 30 to 40 minutes are not only a testament to skilled samurais, but also to talented filmmakers. Lord Naritsugu and his army of 200 find themselves face to face with the 13 assassins in a rundown village. The assassins have had time to rig the city with all sorts of traps, explosives, and walls of giant branches and sticks that slide into place cutting the army off from itself. Divide and conquer is their strategy. They attack with a deadly ferocity. Groups of men stand and watch as these seasoned samurais chop their friends to bits. Its fierce, ferocious, and eye-opening. This is what a good action movie is like. You don't need endless amounts of expensive CGI or an infinite array of incomprehensible shots of feet and fists. All you need is a talented director who knows where to place his camera. Actors who can pull of the strenuous choreography, and above all a story with characters that matter.

'13 Assassins' features a 1080p image buoyed up by an AVC encode. The movie, like its strong subject matter, takes on a more drab and dreary look. Blacks, grays, and mud-soaked browns fill the entire screen for much of the movie's runtime. Lush greens, while the assassins traipse through the forest, are one of the only big splashes of vibrant color you'll see in the movie.

The setting is Feudal Japan, 1844. Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira is the younger brother of the shogun, which affords him the unchallenged right to murder, rape, torture, and mutilate on a whim. After a high-r


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