13 Assassins is Takashi Miike 80th plus film. Quite an output. He continues to crank ’em out. He seems to be good for 2-4 films per year (he’s 5o). With already one in post-production (a ninja film: Nintama Rantarô) he couldn’t make it this year, though he sorely wanted to. The film (as all films are at the fest) was introduced by a programmer who does the Midnight Madness section. Miike first exhibited at Toronto’s Midnight Madness, and has a special place in his heart for the festival – as does the MM programmer.
This is a samurai film in the classic mold: unemployed samurai near the end of the feudal period are employed to fight on the side of right vs the evil of darkness. The half-brother of the Shogun is a sadistic piece of work, and is destroying the credibility of the Shogunate. As the Shogun himself cannot go against his blood (divine, after all), a secret plot is formed.
In samurai films such as this, there’s the selection process, where samurai who are deemed worthy to give their lives are selected. A mix of old masters and prize pupils. There is usually someone who lends comic relief – here the 13th assassin is a country bumpkin – no samurai he – who turns out to be as brave and as warrior like as any of them – not with swordplay, but with a David-Goliath type sling.
The plot is formed, the strategy is decided upon, and the cat and mouse game begins. It’s all very well-plotted and when the battle begins (230 against 13) you get what you came to see. A battle royale that (but of course) defies credibility. But you don’t go to these things seeking credibility. You go seeking thrills and an adrenalin rush and to see justice done (the bad guy gets his due).
It’s all delivered in grand fashion and a rollicking good time was had by all.
This is actually a remake of a 1963 film which I never seen.