Friday, May 27, 2011

Daily poster: 13 Assassins.

13 Assassins.
My wife and I saw 13 Assassins last night. Director, Takeshi Miike is about the most up and down filmmaker I can think of. I can't stand a lot of his films, but when he really swings at the ball, he can hit home runs with the best of them. 13 Assassins is out of the park.

The half-brother of Japan's Shogun is a sociopathic, rapist, serial killer. A wannabe war leader born into a time of peace. The crimes he commits against his own people, early on in the film, are pretty rough. The screams of the female victims are especially hard to take. Once the film establishes the antagonist, it is off and running as a Seven Samurai, Magnificent Seven, GI Joe, squad of specialists vs. 200 soldiers, action film.

Other politicians (lords? I'm not sure of their titles) gather and fear that the prick half-brother will throw Japan back into states of warfare. One man takes it on himself to hire an old samurai to assemble a team of samurai badassery.

While the half-brother and his army are traveling home, the samurai hit squad cuts through the beautiful forest to cut them off. The hit squad arrives in a small town first, and readies for battle.

(above, Hirayama, a ronin samurai and the baddest of the hit squad.)

The half-brother and his 200 men enter the city at a little over halfway through the film. The rest is pure, fantastic, murderings. I always get super tense when there are insane odds in films. 13 vs 200? Come on! Will the film handle the situation with class and cleverness (like Leon, the Professional) or just clod it up with 80's cartoon-action? (like Schwarzenegger's Commando)  13 Assassins serves a bit of both both. While the hit squad each kill a ton of soldiers, the booby traps they rig are super cool. I almost never felt cheated or that Takeshi Miike took the easy way (except for the CG bulls, which were a teeny bit lame.)

Someone told me today that Roger Ebert said that the massive battle was broken down into vignettes. I'm refraining from reading Ebert's review until I'm done writing this, as I don't want to be tainted by his superior writing. I think most team action film battle scenes are broken into vignettes or scenes within scenes. This isn't new (see Uncommon Valor for a kickass example.) But what is especially good in 13 Assassins is that the story does not disappear in the action. Like a five star professional wrestling match, Takeshi Miike weaves the story into the action masterfully. Characters retain their traits and motivations. The story does not stop and wait for an action scene to end in order to continue, like in a lot of action films. The story is propelled and even integrated into the action scenes.

If you can get past a nude, armless, legless, half starved, tongue cut out, Japanese woman screaming at you for a minute and enjoy hot, steamy, samurai action, this film is AWESOME. Want something a little less violent and visceral? Get your greasy mitts on Seven Samurai, still the best samurai film of all time.

This preview is rad and the foley sound effects are crunchy and sweet.

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