UK Release date: 23rd October 2010 (London Film Festival)
Watched on Sky+ Friday 1st June 2012.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
I had heard many good things about this movie and so was quite keen to see it. I must say I wasn’t disappointed, although I did find it a tad confusing at the beginning (more on that later). For those that fear the subtitle, I’m afraid it was in Japanese with (yes you guessed it) subtitles, but fear not, it’s quite easy to follow (after you get past the first bit). Very violent, but not all that gory (surprisingly) but more of that later too… Here’s a very brief summary first.
It is the 1800’s and the days of the Samurai are numbered in Japan, but a few still survive. Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira hides behind his position of power and uses it to abuse those under him, even to the extent of rape and murder. Many people are not happy about this but he is a powerful man and he has a very dedicated army to protect him. A plan is hatched to kill Matsudaira before he is able to take a position of real power as the Shogun’s council. To this end a band of twelve Samurai are assembled and they hastily make a plan of attack. They will hit Matsudaira and his protectors while they are travelling back home. On the way they are joined by a man of the forest, Koyata, who proves more than useful. They decide to make their stand in a village that they adapt to their needs, christening it ‘The Village of Death’. Now they wait for Matsudaira to arrive, but will he come lightly protected as they planned, or does his Samurai, Hanbei Kitou, also have a plan? I will leave it there or the Spoiler Police (Japanese Historical Samurai Films Division) will be training me to be an assassin (again).
Very well made with some quite awesome fight scenes, so hats off to the stunt guys and fight arrangers (great stuff!). The performances were all very good, although I do have the usual problem with films in a foreign language, but it all seemed well done. So honourable mentions go to; Kôji Yakusho as Shinzaemon Shimada, Takayuki Yamada as Shinrouko, Yûsuke Iseya as Koyata, Gorô Inagaki (thought he was particularly good) as Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira, Masachika Ichimura as Hanbei Kitou, Mikijiro Hira as Sir Doi, Hiroki Matsukata as Kuranaga and Ikki Sawamura as Mitsuhashi.
I found the beginning of the film very confusing, there is a lot about the politics of the day and I found it hard to decipher just who was doing what to whom. After a while though the threads of the plot did begin to make sense and I found it much easier to follow (& enjoy). In many ways it did put me in mind of two films; ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (based on the ‘Seven Samurai’ which sill lurks on my ‘to see’ list), and ‘The Dirty Dozen’. Both fine films in their own right, but I could see links to both of them here. For me, I felt the level violence (& gore) could have been turned up a notch, but I guess they really wanted that 15 certificate. Over all though, I found it a very enjoyable film and one I have no problem in deeming RECOMMENDED (provided you have no fear of subtitles (or gore)…).
My score: 8.4/10
IMDb Score: 7.7/10 (based on 19,910 votes at the time of going to press).
MetaScore: 87/100: (Based on 23 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 85/100 (based on 111 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 88/100 ‘Liked It’ (based on 17,600 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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Shinzaemon Shimada: No mercy! There's no samurai code or fair play in battle! No sword? Use a stick. No stick? Use a rock. No rock? Use your fists and feet! Lose your life, but make the enemy pay!
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira: Hanbei?
Hanbei Kitou: Huh?
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira: You think the age of war was like this?
Hanbei Kitou: Perhaps
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira: It's magnificent. With death comes gratitude for life. If a man has lived in vain, then how trivial his life is. Oh, Hanbei. Something wonderful has come to my mind.
Hanbei Kitou: Huh?
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira: Once I'm on the Shogun's council, let's bring the age of war.
Hanbei Kitou: Who are you? You're no samurai.
Koyata: So what? Do only samurai matter in this world? I thought samurai would be fun but you bore me. You're useless, even more useless in great numbers.
Shinzaemon Shimada: He who values his life dies a dog's death.
Koyata: Compared to fighting a wild bear these wounds are nothing.
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
Official Site (US): http://www.13assassins.com/
Official Site (Japan): http://13assassins.jp/
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/13assassins