Takashi Miike’s biggest release in America for a decade tells the story of 13 Samurai who try to defeat an evil feudal lord. It’s been a long time since someone’s sat down to make a real samurai epic, perhaps because it’s impossible to compare to the works of Akira Kurosawa. But for Miike and company, it’s a worthwhile challenge. How do they do?

The Players

  • Director: Takashi Miike
  • Writer: Daisuke Tengan, Kaneo Ikegami (original screenplay)
  • Starring: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yûsuke Iseya, Gorô Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijiro Hira

The Plot

When Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (Gorô Inagaki) comes into power, he offers a Caligula-esque view for the future of his rule. And after he mutilates a young child, and kills the wife of a leader, it is decided that he must be taken out. Hired for this assignment is Shinzaemon Shimada (Yakusho), who assembles a team of Samurai together to be Matsudaira’s seventy men. But when they finally find the town to which they will make their stand it is no longer just seventy, but two hundred men they must go up against.

The Good

  • This is the Real Deal: Though based on a 1963′s samurai film (which the director – who we interviewed - said he knew better from the title), this has the ideas and scope of a classic Samurai tale. So when swords and arrows go flying, you get the sense of the people and the action involved. Though it cannot match the scope or genius of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, it compares favorably. And that’s saying something.
  • The Pacing: The film offers a slow burn, one in which the problem is set up, the team is assembled, they make their way to the final location, and then a small band of men must face off against impossible odds. And yet every step of the way, you’re with the film, knowing that it’s going to end spectacularly.
  • The Ending: Yep, when thirteen men face up against two hundred, you expect some great action, and the film delivers in spades.
  • The Villian: Gorô Inagaki’s bad guy is so disconnected that he relishes everything about his battle, and you grow to hate him, even as his curiosity becomes fascinating. Even when the odds are against him, and he’s being shot at, he’s so detached from pain and the meaning of life that he’s fascinating.
  • The Framing and Feel: The film builds tot he end,but it also builds to the moment where all thirteen assassins are shown together, waiting for the moment of their likely final fight.

The Bad

None: This is pretty much a perfect movie. There’s no missteps, and it feels like a film that can rest comfortably next to the works of such Samurai masters as Kurosawa. There is no greater complement that can be bestowed.


If you’ve ever loved a movie where men clash samurai swords, or want to have that experience for the first time, Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins is one of the great movie-going experiences of 2011.  This is the real deal, and it delivers.

Rating: 9.5/10

13 Assassins hits theaters April 29. The film is already available On Demand.