Takashi Miike’s work is often filled with sudden mood changes and improbable actions. Super prolific director Miike rarely lets logic get in the way of an entertaining laugh or shock. It’s one of the reasons why his movies are so fun. 13 Assassins is no exception. About two-thirds of the way through, this film changes from deliberately-paced serious samurai drama to giddily over-the-top action movie. It affectionately borrows from Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai the whole time. In fact, the whole movie is a remake of a 1963 Japanese film of the same name directed by Eiichi Kudo.
Young Lord Naritsugu is a sociopathic monster. He ties up innocent families and shoots them with arrows just for fun, in addition to other atrocities. But he’s a close relation to the Shogun. A place is even being groomed for him on the high council. This rests uneasy with other lords and nobles. In the opening scene, one commits hari-kari in protest. This causes a series of events that lead to the hiring of 13 assassins to take Lord Naritsugu out. It is peace time and dogs of war are happy to die for such a noble cause. The first part’s visual compositions are often beautiful and punctuated with violence. The social pecking order and political machinations behind recruiting the assassins is laid out very clearly. More suicide is even required to make the assassination politically correct.
One by one, our group of badasses comes together pledging their lives to complete the mission. Courageous fighting spirit is valued most when selecting samurai. From the samurai perspective, only the most devoted can withstand the carnage of battle, die a noble death, and survivors stand victorious. Bound together by honor, it’s a race to the rendezvous point where a small village is transformed into a town of death.
Asking plausibility questions of the last forty minutes is to miss out on the fun. Although upon a second viewing there are some hints as to how the operation could be executed. Nothing more moronic than in Fast Five happens but with infinitely more blood, guts and violence. 13 Assassins is a rousing good time with R-rated action.