I don’t normally watch foreign films (particularly those with subtitles) but how could I possibly turn away from a movie called 13 Assassins? And you know what? I’m glad I gave this movie a chance because it was really good. This movie came out in 2010 but was released on DVD/Blu-Ray in the US in July 2011. It’s a Japanese “Jidaigeki” (period drama) set in 1830′s Japan during the end of the samurai era. It’s about 13 samurai who are secretly hired to assassinate Lord Matsudaira Naritsuga, a sadistic young Lord who is quickly ascending into higher political positions.
As I said before, I had some initial reservations about this movie. First off, I ended up watching it at 11 pm and so I was already a little tired. I was afraid I would fall asleep while reading all these subtitles. The beginning of the movie starts off slow and I was having a hard time keeping up with who all the characters were. Plus for some reason, the subtitles seemed to be scrolling by pretty fast. But things calmed down quickly and it got to a point where I could actually follow most of the story without even reading the subtitles. Once you get the fact that Naritsuga is a sadistic son of a bitch (and they really drive that point home), the movie picks up and becomes easier to follow.
Here’s what works for this movie:
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira – Goro Inagaki portrays the Lord Naritsugu and after watching this movie, I might need to go back and edit my list of favorite movie villains. This guy is evil. He rapes a clan leader’s daughter-in-law, then kills her husband in front of her by impaling him then chopping off his head (with several swings). He also uses the family of a man, who committed harakiri in public, as target practice with his bow & arrow. That includes a young boy. And that’s not even the worst thing he did. Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a bad guy so sick and sadistic. It works for this movie because by the time the final battle comes, you really want this guy dead as much as the assassins.
The Samurai Code – The code of the samurai plays a big part in this movie. Shinzaemon, the leader of the assassin samurai, is opposed by his old sparring partner who is now the personal samurai to Lord Naritsugu. There is a back and forth between the two of them as to whether it is right to just do as a samurai is sworn to do (follow his Lord’s wishes no matter what) or do what is right. It makes this movie more than just a samurai sword flick. The honor and willingness to die for their causes (whether right or wrong) gave this movie a 300 feel to it almost. Just like the Spartans, these samurai faced overwhelming numbers and were willing to die in order to hold their ground and accomplish their mission.
The Violence – Obviously a movie called 13 assassins is going to have a lot of killing in it but what I enjoyed about this movie is that it wasn’t over the top like say Ninja Assassin or the latest Conan movie that just came out. Don’t get me wrong. Heads do roll. Blood is spilled. But just like the samurai in the movie, the violence is almost honorable (with the exception of the displays of Lord Naritsugu’s sadistic nature).
Honestly this movie was better than I thought it would be. By the time the last battle occurred it was 1 am and I was no longer tired but sitting up fixated on the TV screen. I’d list out the actors who are in this film but the truth is, I’m not familiar enough with Japanese actors to really know if any of them are popular or what their previous body of works are. But they all do great jobs at playing their roles and conveying the spirit of the samurai. As I said before the movie is pretty straight forward, although there is something that happens at the end that’ll probably have you very confused. I had to actually go and Google it to get an explanation but it doesn’t really do anything to hurt this great movie. Don’t waste any time and put this in your queue right now.