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Takayuki Yamada
Hiroki Matsukata
Kazuki Namioka
Kôji Yakusho
Yûsuke Iseya
Gorô Inagako.
Takashi Miike.
Daisuke Tengan.
Running Time
125 minutes

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13 Assassins
Wa-hey of the samurai

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Japan, 1844. Lord Naritsugu (Inagako), the Shogun’s illegitimate brother, is rising to power, but is manifestly an insane sadist. Shinzaemon (Yakusho) is charged with assassinating Naritsugu and puts together a small band to go up against an army of samurai intent on protecting their lord.

13 Assassins
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Eventually, Takashi Miike will make a Godzilla film. Best known outside Japan for outrageous, surreally violent efforts (Audition, Ichi The Killer), Miike is among the most prolific of all contemporary filmmakers, regularly turning out a handful of movies a year at a rate that bests even the busy periods of Fassbinder or Roger Corman. One of Miike’s projects seems to be to turn his hand to every genre of Japanese popular cinema, from the Ring-like ghost story One Missed Call to the children’s fantasy The Great Yokai War. 13 Assassins, a remake of a 1963 film, is his take on the Kurosawa-style samurai historical drama (jidaigeki).

The irrepressible auteur mostly reins in his tendency to excess in the first half, which is all classical set-up, calm character introductions and stoic declarations about honour and duty — though the evil Naritsugu (Gorô Inagako) is as depraved a baddie as any Miike creation, given to using the women and children of his enemies for archery practice. The second half, however, is all action. Having put together his team of 12 loyal, honourable, steadfast samurai (and one insane disfigured peasant for contrast), the canny Shinzaemon (Kôji Yakusho) chooses a deserted community on the path the villain must take and prepares with booby-traps “a village of death” where an army can be battled by a few men.

A slight problem is that of the 13 heroes, only a couple have much personality; most of the good guys here are so stoic and noble that only the madman stands out (seven samurai are a far more manageable group in movie terms than this dozen-and-one swordsmen). An interesting conflict emerges between Shinzaemon and an old school rival who is now the villain’s chief retainer, over what value can be placed on loyalty when it’s owed to a complete maniac whose casual atrocities sicken even his own bodyguards. Nevertheless, the most Miike-like aspect of the film is the character of Naritsugu, who turns out to have some philosophical points to make in his depradations. Blandly handsome Inagako is a persuasive fiend, shockingly brutal but also weirdly spacey as he calmly wanders through a massacre with only mild interest. He even thanks the hero because this spectacular assassination attempt is the most exciting day of his life.

A decent historical drama, with one of the best extended battle scenes (a full half of the movie is the face-off in the ‘village of death’) in recent memory.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for 13 Assassins
Empire Star Rating

RE: Very entertaining

It's a solid movie, but no more than three stars really because there's zero plot or characters. There's a cartoon cut out of a psychotic bad guy, and then a ton of carnage. Even the fighting wasn't particularly spectacular. Definately enjoyed it but it's by no means a classic ... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 12:46, 22 August 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Very entertaining

L: Hobbitonlass L: Fit Kisto There were some enjoyably OTT Miike touches, the amputee victime spaced-out philosophical villain was just incredible to see and very moving. I loved this film and the other Miike touch that I liked was the over the top explosion with the rain of blood r than plodding I thought the build up was well done and felt right. The only thing that I didn't like was the CGI bulls. At first sight I thought "yes" but very quickly that thought... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jonson at 07:25, 15 August 2012 | Report This Post

13 Assassins

Half-historical-drama and half-samurai-epic, Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins is a high-octane film like no other. It's a little imperative to characterization, but the stunning art direction and iconic choreography makes this a film like no other. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 03:47, 09 July 2012 | Report This Post


This thing was actually on at my local mutiplex.....wonder of I made the extra effort to see the late show. It's a throwback to Kurosawa's old epic alright....with added guts and gore.......Those samurai are a stoical uptight bunch....and thank God for that, because it makes for great entertainment.....four stars ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 16:25, 21 May 2011 | Report This Post


Absolutely magnificent.. I'd go s far as to say that it's Takeshi Miike's best film.. By giving it 3 stars you are declaring that Attack the Block is better? Shame on you ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chris wootton at 13:28, 19 May 2011 | Report This Post

RE: 13 Assassins

Really enjoyed this, great homage to the classic samurai films of old. It was a little hard to tell which character was which early on, but there was enough time to let each character breathe so it wasn't that much of a problem. It was also sumptuously shot, no pesky "shaky" cam in sight, great panning wide shots. I absolutely loved it. I really want to see his follow up. I really want to see the original 60's version too, which I think has been released by criterion. ... More

Posted by RPupkin at 12:13, 15 May 2011 | Report This Post

RE: 13 Assassins

Director: Miike Screenwriter: Tengan Starring: kusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya, Goro Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura Synopsis As the era of the samurai is coming to an end, the Shogun’s younger sadistic brother Lord Naritsugu (Inagaki) becomes a threat for Feudal Japan when he ascends to a higher political position. When Shinzaemon (Yakusho) is secretly hired to assassinate the young lord, he recruits a group of assassins for this suicide mission. Review Fifty yea... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 15:21, 11 May 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Have To Agree With The Peanut Gallery

Was completely blown away by this. Truly brilliant. And, yes, the amputee scene (and the sounds in particular) will stay with me for days. ... More

Posted by Swoz_MK at 10:24, 08 May 2011 | Report This Post

Have To Agree With The Peanut Gallery

This is a pretty wonderful film - the best samurai film in ages - and I can't believe you only gave it 3 stars. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by benskelly at 01:28, 08 May 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Very entertaining

L: Fit Kisto There were some enjoyably OTT Miike touches, the amputee victime spaced-out philosophical villain was just incredible to see and very moving. I loved this film and the other Miike touch that I liked was the over the top explosion with the rain of blood r than plodding I thought the build up was well done and felt right. The only thing that I didn't like was the CGI bulls. At first sight I thought "yes" but very quickly that thought disappeared. A small gr... More

Posted by Hobbitonlass at 20:51, 07 May 2011 | Report This Post

Very entertaining

Well worth seeing on the big screen. I would agree it was very parred down in terms of character development, they must have realized there was no way to compete with The Seven Samurai on that front. There were some enjoyably OTT Miike touches, such as the amputee victim and the spaced-out philosophical villain I hope the 20 mins longer extended cut turns up on the dvd release. ign] ... More

Posted by Fit Kisto at 19:58, 07 May 2011 | Report This Post

Poor Goro!

A fantastic movie... much more heart than Miike's last cinematic outing (Yattaman!) Empire... you have spelt Goro's sirname wrong! It's Inagaki (not Inagako) - he would not be amused! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by pegsball at 13:14, 07 May 2011 | Report This Post

Why so much praise?

Noooo!! As much as I was looking forward to an epic Samurai film in the vein of Kurosawa I was extremely disappointed by this film. The plot was plodding and characters were overly stoic, reading out their banal, cliche'd lines with such a theatrical overkill that it became extremely monotonous to watch. Mutilated victims formed an orderly que to do their part to demonstrate how bad the villain was. The first hour just threw reasons to make you hate the villain more and more so you could rout... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by emperorglenuff at 10:18, 06 May 2011 | Report This Post

3 stars... bitch please!!!!

So under awed am I by the utter tripe that passes for entertainment these days that it seems a shame not see a very good movie get some more credit. I've stoppe buying Empire because I disagree with so many of their reviews. If Empire were an actor it would be Robert De Niro and I suspect that more than a few people at the magazine would happily accept that accolade. 13 Assassins is excellent entertainment for what it is and it has the best ending to a movie I have seen in the lat 10 years, (... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by alzih at 15:20, 04 May 2011 | Report This Post

RE: 13 Assassins

C'mon 3 stars when you gave thor 4? This film is refreshing in a world of crap yank superheros and meat head special agents. The art direction is fantastic and the last battle is seven samurai on steriods. It bothers me when you are so quick to shoot down something a little different, causing less of these kind of films to be made.  I guess its falls into one of  two categories for you...... 'not high brow arthouse enough to make me seem cultured and intelligent' ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by The Sadistic Puffin at 09:47, 04 May 2011 | Report This Post

You are a hard man to please, Kim

This is a phenomenal film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Rumpledink at 09:06, 02 May 2011 | Report This Post

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