Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Koji Yakusho, Yusuke Iseya, Ken Mitsuishi, Ittoku Kishibe, Arata Furuta
It takes a certain type of director to even dream of taking on Seven Samurai. But Takashi Miike has got the balls to do it. And he pretty much pulls it off.
1844. It's an era of peace. Which sucks for samurai, who are drifting about with no battles to fight or values to uphold. So when the chance comes to defend honour and die a noble death, Shinzaemon (Yakusho) can't wait to do his thing. And so he sets about assembling a team of 13 men, to take out the corrupt, depraved and all-round evil second-in-line to the Shogun throne.
Things start off rather sluggish as Shinza scurries about for his soldiers. After half an hour of long conversations and lots of namedrops, things get a little confusing. But the main gist of the story is this: Lord Naritsugu is a Bad Man. As in, he butchers whole families and massacres little children. And we want him dead. Which is what the good guys are doing.
Events build up to an epic showdown in a village rigged for ambush; 45 minutes of complete and utter carnage. Blood spatters everywhere, limbs get severed in two, traps go off, houses blow up and a good time is had by all. It's like watching Kurosawa at double speed with a little more edge. The characters are all cast from stereotypes (the wise one, the stupid funny amateur one, the young one who's never killed before) but Miike conjures up tension in other ways. Mostly through brutal bits of shocking violence (one shot of a maimed little girl is immensely harrowing).
But this is restrained compared to Takashi's earlier work; it's tighter and far more mature than Ichi the Killer ever was. At one point the youthful hunter who joins in the brawl challenges the arrogant warriors. "You're not even a samurai!" decries one. "So what?" comes the cocky reply. You can't argue with that kind of energy.
Seven Samurai with attitude. 13 Assassins is violent, epic and extremely satisfying.