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Wick's Review

Created May 22, 2011 01:29PM PST • Edited May 22, 2023 08:45AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    13 Assassins is a perfect samurai movie, complete with the gathering of a hit-squad, an assassination-worthy villain, operatic action sequences, frequent comic relief, beautifully bucolic staging, buckets of blood and yet not a lot of gore. Action fans in general and samurai fans in particular will be tickled, thrilled and sated by 13 Assassins. Those with more genteel tastes should stay far away.

    Often funny, in the mordant style that action fans love, the movie kept my mostly male Camera 3 audience in frequent stitches. For instance upon entering a small village, the head samurai commands his team to booby-trap it into a “Town of Death.” And so they do.

    It’s hard to imagine 13 Assassins getting a Hollywood remake given its royal villain. So see it in its native Japanese for a slice of samurai heaven.

    The elemental dialog is plenty clear through the spare subtitles, names aside. Don’t worry about the names anyway. The good guys are easy to pick out, even if the bad guys are a little less so, other than the evil Lord Naritsugu. And he’s a villain almost beyond compare. Off with his head!

  3. Really Great 4.5

    A few of the uniformly excellent stars stand out, even to Occidental eyes.

    • Gor├┤ Inagaki as the evil Lord Naritsugu, a pretty-boy sadist.
    • Takayuki Yamada as a wayward young samurai who redeems himself.
    • Tsuyoshi Ihara as an especially swashbuckling samurai.
  4. Male Stars Really Great 4.5
  5. Female Stars Really Great 4.5
  6. Female Costars Really Great 4.5
  7. Male Costars Really Great 4.5
  8. Perfect 5.0

    Samurai films are ultimate male fantasies, with boys and men performing as knightly action heroes, ├╝bermensch who walk amongst workaday commoners. Takashi Miike’s film captures this in classic fashion, combining it with impeccable period trappings to create a perfect film.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0
  10. Play Really Great 4.5

    The absurd battle sequences lessen the gravitas of the proceedings.

  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    Perfect sound effects, especially of blades penetrating bodies.

  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    The film qualifies as a beautiful period piece of 19th Century Japan – lush, green, quaint. The touches of typically spare Japanese design look modern even to 21st Century eyes.

  13. Content
  14. Sordid 2.6

    The savage violence is conveyed as much through facial expressions and sound effects as through swords slicing skin. This makes it much easier to watch than one might imagine. For instance, two occurrences of harikari (i.e., Seppuku) focus almost exclusively on the suicidal samurai’s face as he disembowels himself, complete with sounds of cutting, crackling, gurgling and gushing. Who needs to see the wound itself in the face of such brilliant filmmaking.

    That said, the evil Lord’s savagery on his female victims is retina-searing.

  15. Sex Titillating 1.6
  16. Violence Savage 3.8
  17. Rudeness Salty 2.5
  18. Surreal 2.9

    Surreal battle sequences don’t obscure the movie’s window into a proto-fascist society where soldiers pledge death to protect their lords and follow a code that is the opposite of leave-no-man-behind. No wonder Imperial Japan sprang forth just a few decades hence, complete with kamikaze attacks and an unwillingness to surrender that required two atomic bombs to defeat.

  19. Circumstantial Surreal 3.0
  20. Biological Supernatural 3.1
  21. Physical Surreal 2.5


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Feb 23, 2014 12:32AM

Regarding jasonhurwitz’s Review
Excellent choice for your first samurai movie.