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Sunday, 29 May 2011

Bonkers Miike puts the samurai film back on the map!

Seeing as we only receive a limited amount of cult icon Takashi Miike's work over here, and given that those films we do get easy access to are his most extreme, crazy ones such as Ichi The Killer and Audition, one could be forgiven for having him firmly placed in one bracket as a film maker.  The truth is this is a man who has turned his hand to many a genre and tone, not only the extreme gorefest and taboo-trampling satire, but also the family musical comedy!  He is a production line as far as movies go; by the time his newest release in the UK (a limited release, I should hasten to add!) is being raved about by those who have seen it, he will have already completed production on at least another film!  He is indeed a rarity, as the quality of his work does not even seem to suffer as one might think it should.

The release to which I refer is 13 Assassins, Miike's contribution to the samurai action genre, and though strictly speaking it is a re-working of an original, and though it has only received a limited release here with minimal promotion, it currently stands as the best film I have seen released since the Academy Awards, and certainly gives Kurosawa a little run for his money!  The movie clearly has its flaws, and it could be said I have enjoyed (in the popcorn-munching sense) at least one other film released this year more, but the flaws are not ones I imagine he is not already fully aware of, and as a piece of cinema it is without doubt the most accomplished work on the big screen right now.  All small issues I have with it aside, other film makers are going to be very hard pushed to achieve anything quite as jaw-dropping as the extended action sequence that constitutes the majority of the second half!

In truth, it is really the second half of 13 Assassins that makes it worth the price of the ticket; the first half sets up the story with minimum characterisation, although the characterisation we do get, and some of the dialogue driven moments are very well done, with a unique balance of nastiness and strange comedy typical of Miike, and the clash of philosophies among the Shogun is nicely examined, but in the end you walk away from the movie with one thing to talk about above all else: the action!  It is beautifully choreographed, well coordinated, nicely edited, and looks gorgeous.

For those who are a fan of samurai action, this is a must; for those who are a fan of Miike, this is a must, and for those who only know of the director because of his infamous, extreme work, it is most definitely a must, since you will see just how talented he is, and how restrained he can be.

13 Assassins - 9/10

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