13 Assassins – review

When it comes to Japanese jidaigeki films, I’m a bit of genre novice. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was excited. You can slice this film into two parts very easily – the first hour and a bit is moody setting and last 50 minutes is all-out violence.

Set in 1844, pre-industrial Japan, the society of the time is at peace. It appears with peace, the role of samurai has become less important. However, when Lord Naritsugu starts to rape and kill whimsically, a local clan leader Shinzaemon decides to assemble a select samurai troop of 13 and takes this perpetrator out. So when the director has finished putting everything in place for the viewer, somebody rings the bell and all hell breaks loose. So how about the fighting? It satisfied my needs, but sometimes I could barely see what was going because the cameraman had shaky-hand syndrome which seems endemic to all modern action films. Just hold the camera still! After the epic battle between 13 samurai and 200 guards, the last men standing are Shinzaemon, and Lord Naritsugu (the two main protagionists in the film). This is when your blood really starts pumping, this is what the crowd wanted. This is Pacquiao/Mayweather, this is Ali/Foreman. However, it doesn’t live up to the billing like many a boxing match.

I had a few warnings about the gory nature of the film, but it wasn’t too bad (not to same extent as Saw). Nonetheless, the warnings are still justified for anybody who is squeamish. My main problems with this film are the poor narrative flow and the cheap humour moments. This is meant to be about old Japenese samurai warriors who were strong and fearless, but yet there is a scene where they squirm at the sight of a leech. It killed the mood for me. It was still fun, but I think some critics have been too generous with their praise.

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