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13 Assassins - blu-ray review

5 stars

Brutal is the immediate adjective that comes to mind when watching Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins.  It’s a gloriously harsh and bloody affair; limbs and heads are hacked off and there are enough scenes of hari-kari to make even the strong-stomached reconsider their path in life.  Yet, 13 Assassins is also an epic tale of feudal alliances and shogun honor.  Visually rich and always engaging, Miike’s film – while not the easiest film to digest – is certainly a must-see for fans of Asian cinema and of the genre.

The movie opens with a ritual suicide in which one clan elder protests the brutal actions of the shogun's younger brother, Naritsugu (Gorô Inagaki).  Recognizing that Naritsugu’s rise to power means the end of peace, Sir Doi (Mikijiro Hira) forms an alliance of thirteen assassins (hence the title) and defy their honor (or are they celebrating it?  You decide.) and go on a suicide mission to bring about the death of the cruel Naritsugu.  To grind the political intrigue that fuels the first part of the film down to its bare bones, know that one clan essentially commits “total massacre” against one man protected by 200 soldiers.{googleads}

While the film is a bit of a “talker” in that the first part is pure politics and a sort of gathering of the troops (with the occasional beheading along the way), know that the lengthy battle scene that closes the film is brilliant and epic and every bit worthy of your full attention early on.  Full of charging flame-broiled bulls and extreme violence, the final battle scene is one for the record books.  The gore is not cartoonish in the least which makes this film all the more dangerous and smart.  Hands and arms and legs get lost; swords get plunged into bodies with a sickening thunk of watermelon spooge and many, many lives are lost.

Filmed by Nobuyasu Kita, the camera is as involved in the action as some of its key players.  Muddied and bloodied and tipped over during battle, Kita’s camera is all over the place providing edge-of-your-seat thrills and beautiful scenery.  Even the most bloodied of soldiers looks beautifully strong against this backdrop.  The tiniest of moments become powerful statements of honor and code and give this film a value higher than that of an asian-styled revenge flick.  Yes, in spite of its use of blood and violence or maybe because of it, 13 Assassins is a beautiful film.

13 Assassins - blu-ray review

The film is also an example of when remakes go right.  Essentially, 13 Assassins is a retelling of a 1963 feature by Eichi Kudo which, while famous in its own right, was marred by production woes and a limited budget.  Here, Miike has opens the story up a bit and gives it the added (and violent) oomph to be something more than a simple remake with a known audience.  A cash grab this isn’t.  The villain is barbaric and heroes are honorable.  It doesn’t get much simpler.

With wonderful performances from Koji Yakusho and Yusuke Iseya and a thunderous score with which to annihilate foes by, Miike’s film is a masterpiece of gleaming brutality.  And yet, that description is a bit unfair as there are many levels to the politics involved; it is so much more than a march of madness toward death’s door.  13 Assassins, magnificent and beautiful and so very deadly, is a brilliantly wild untamed animal of Asian cinema.


[tab title="Details"]

13 Assassins - blu-ray reviewMPAA Rating: R for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use.
: Takashi Miike
Writer: Daisuke Tengan
Cast: Kôji Yakusho; Takayuki Yamada; Yûsuke Iseya; Gorô Inagaki; Mikijiro Hira
Genre: Action | Adventure | Drama
Tagline: 13 Assassins
Memorable Movie Quote: "I shall accomplish your task... with magnificence.."
Magnet Releasing
Release Date:
April 29, 2011
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 11, 2011

Synopsis: Cult director Takeshi Miike delivers a bravado period action film set at the end of Japan's feudal era in which a group of unemployed samurai are enlisted to bring down a sadistic lord and prevent him from ascending to the throne and plunging the country into a war-torn future.


[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

13 Assassins - blu-ray review


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - July 5, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English, English SDH, Spanish
Japanese: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); Digital copy (as download); BD-Live

Presented by Magnolia (the current king of HD releases), 13 Assassins is an assault on the eyes with its detailed 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer.  Colors are stylistically muted to fit the mood and the greens are muddied.  Blood is dark and the black levels are thick, inky and well-balanced throughout the feature.  The film is incredibly soaked in riches and, thanks to a blissfully robust DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, sounds as good as it sparkles.  Thundering bass levels will rock you toward war, too.



  • None

Special Features:

We get a little limp here with this being an import and everything.  We do get a series of deleted scenes which fill in the gaps in characters and journeying as these were part of the original cut of the film, but nothing too informative (other than a brief and occasionally interesting interview with Miike) about the making of the film.

  • Deleted Scenes (18 min)
  • Interview with Director Takashi Miike (19 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer


[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]