Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Man on Film: 13 Assassins

For the unindoctrinated, Takaski Miike is one crazy motherfucker. Anyone who has seen Visitor Q, Ichi the Killer, or Audition can attest to this. Having seen these movies, the notion of Takashi Miike helming an epic samurai film certainly piques one's interest. In the abstract, piecing together what the end product might actually consist of produces an extremely bizarre and mind-blowingly violent flick. In reality, 13 Assassins is a relatively straight-forward samurai film enriched with a strong sense of humor and a balls-to-the-wall blow-out of a final battle sequence.

Reality, for this film-goer, was a great thing.

In 13 Assassins, Takashi Miike has crafted an entirely kick-ass samurai film. He hits all the beats to stir up righteous indignation at their cause, draws up an evil and indefensible villain, and imbues his samurai with equal parts humor and honor. It is easy to root for these men on a mission, and the voyage there is enjoyable.

But the centerpiece of the film is its climax, and its climax is an orgiastic explosion of righteous kills by arrow and sword. While the hopes for insanely graphic violence are almost innate when speaking of a Takashi Miike film, this is not what one might expect if they have seen Ichi the Killer. While known for cartoonish, insanely over-the-top, and absurdly graphic violence, he reigns it in slightly. Yes, a ton of the Big Bad's henchmen meet their maker at the end of a blade, but the violence isn't like the final act of Kill Bill, Vol. 1 or anything. It's filmed in a much more traditional way, which wasn't what I personally expected from Takaski Miike, but that isn't to say it was disappointing. Really, with the exception of one ridiculous flaming livestock effect, there weren't any missteps, and he stays largely within the conventions of the genre in a good way.

In short: 13 Assassins is a helluva ride.

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