Tuesday, August 02, 2011

13 Assassins

Are 13 Assassins, six assassins too many?

The more characters one has in a film the greater the difficulty in giving enough screen time to each character to make them memorable, especially when they are part of a gang and hence not differentiated by role. One way to deal with this problem is to make the various characters look different (a tall one, a short one, a fat one etc). This is one area where 13 Assassins falls down, despite the long build-up the most memorable characters are the 13th assassin and Naritsugu (the bad guy).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The plot of this Japanese samurai movie is simply summed up as "Naritsugu must die". From the start we are left in no doubt that Matsudaira Naritsugu is a blood thirsty sadistic bastard with no redeeming qualities. The wrinkle is that not only is he the half brother of the Shogun, and hence above the law, but he is about to be appointed senior advisor to his brother. A secret assassination attempt is arranged to give the government plausible deniability of the murder. Twelve samurai, unemployed or bored with peace, set out from Edo (Tokyo) to ambush Naritsugu. An ad hoc bunch of samurai choosing to fight against the odds for little or no reward, does this sound like another more famous Japanese film?

The attention to detail, the classy camera work, the slow build up, the tension, the flashes of humour and finally the climactic battle. The 13 Assassins matches the Seven Samurai and in terms of colour photography betters it. There is also social commentary (the lead assassin shocks his old classmate by claiming to be fighting for the the people rather than his lord) and a really bad baddie. But it lacks novelty and in the end it is just a very well made samurai movie. If you haven't seen the Seven Samurai then see this film but only fanatics need to see both.

Ian's rating 3/5

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