13 Assassins (2010)
July 2, 2022 6:42 AM - Subscribe

Takashi Miike remakes a 1963 film based on historical events. Shinzaemon Shimada leads a team of assassins in 19th-century Japan to eliminate the ruthless Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira, who is wreaking havoc against his own people. Hired secretly by a government official hoping to end Matsudaira's reign of terror, Shimada recruits the best samurai in Japan and then sets a trap for the lord's large contingent of faithful bodyguards.

Rated 95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Kanopy and Tubi and available for digital rental on multiple outlets.
posted by DirtyOldTown (8 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:43 AM on July 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

The initial setup is a harrowing pileup of trigger warnings, but the subsequent story, while still essentially a revenge yarn, is really a dramatization of grimly determined men who have decided that this time the rich and powerful man will not get away with hurting women.

I have only seen maybe 10% of Mike's extensive filmography, but it's hard to imagine he has many films more technically accomplished than this one

It's pretty amazing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:46 AM on July 2, 2022

The oxen. Wow. I saw this at Midnight Madness at TIFF and the crowd went wild.
posted by sixswitch at 7:37 AM on July 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

I've seen this twice... I think I want to see it again.

This may be weird to say but there's something about the huge set piece at the end that just isn't that satisfying; things are getting over the top and who lives or dies how just feels arbitrary. On paper it's incredible and it feels like sacrilege to say it's not. I don't think it's me missing the point or being too hard to please. It's simply the case that for most of the movie I'm like, "This movie is so good!!!" right up until the start of the village battle. Then, after it's over, I'm like, "This movie was fine."
posted by fleacircus at 8:34 AM on July 2, 2022

Was thinking about this movie's take on samurai culture vs. his next film, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai. In spite of all the exciting action, both films are ultimately critical of the system of values underlying the shogunate system. In 13 Assassins, the servants of the Shogun have to work counter to his explicit political order in order to save that very system from the corruption it has generated. Narigatsu embodies the hierarchical ideology that defines the culture in its most pure, cruel form: violence executed on the subjugated merely for the reason that they are subjugated. The tragedy of Hanbei is that he knows his Lord is pure f'n evil, but he has no identity outside that of samurai retainer. His dedication to his duty is both his metaphorical and literal downfall -- Shinzaemon defeats him by kicking mud in his face, because this is real war with no rules, not the orderly world of the dojo. The tragedy of the assassins is that they sacrifice themselves to save the shogunate from itself, on behalf of the people who are the victims of the excesses of power (as symbolized by Narigatsu). And ultimately, the whole system is dismantled 30 years later, as the end titles inform us, making the whole enterprise a horrific waste of life, if at the same time necessary. What then to make of the only two survivors? Shinzaemon's nephew Shinrokuro, the disenchanted samurai who plans to become a bandit and escape to America, and the hunter Koyata, who apparently is some sort of supernatural entity (he's called a "raccoon goblin" by one of the other assassins when they find him, whatever the hell that is). The two alternatives facing Japan at that point in its history, perhaps: modernization on the model of the West, or a retreat into traditional values and spirituality?

Hara-Kiri is even more bitterly critical of samurai culture, though. At least in 13 Assassins there's the sense that there is some value in devotion to "honor" even if that devotion is often misguided (cf. Hanbei). No spoilers, but by the end of Hara-Kiri (which is a real slow burner of a film, with an explosive ending), I feel like the entire system has been revealed as hollow to the core.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:36 AM on July 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

This is an awesome movie.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:46 PM on July 4, 2022

A quality Miike entry. Almost entirely free of the yikes content Miike is infamous for (although it feints in that direction).

Currently available to watch free on Tubi (in the US at least): Subbed, dubbed.
posted by neckro23 at 9:43 AM on July 5, 2022

What's next on the Miike Tour? Hara-Kiri would seem the obvious companion to 13 Assassins...
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:15 PM on July 9, 2022

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