13 Assassins (2010)

  
How I haven’t already reviewed this amazing movie I don’t know. So I am making up for that now. This is in my top 5 all time favourites and by the time you watch it, I’m pretty sure it’ll be in yours too. Viewing this for the first time is an experience that I’d love to feel again. 

  
The plot begins when the master of Namiya clan commits speppuku. A samurai warrior by the name of Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho) is summoned by the shogun’s advisor to hear the tale of a man who’s son and daughter-in-law were brutally slain by the evil Lord Naritsugu. Shinzaemon also meets a woman who was mutilated by Lord Naritsugu. She writes with her mouth pleading with Shinzaemon to kill Lord Nartisugu. Shinzaemon gathers 11 other warriors and together they seek to dispose of Lord Naritsugu. 

  
The build up is amazing. Some folks may watch this and worry it’s moving along too slow, but I implore you to bear with it, because the final third is quite possibly one of the greatest 40 or so minutes ever committed to celluloid. Takashi Miike who is normally known for his brutal Yakuza films and seriously disturbing dramas such as Visitor Q, has created possibly the finest samurai movie ever made, and yes I have seen Seven Samurai. There is some great drama delivered here, and the action is spectacular. Lord Naritsugu is one of the vilest villains to ever grace the screen, and you are willing the 13 Assassins to complete their herculean task. 

  
Every actor involved is magnificent, really bringing to life what it was like during those dark times. There is the odd helping of humour to lighten proceedings, mostly coming from the stranger that helps the 12 warriors become 13, which really rounds off how great this film is. I cannot recommend this enough, and 10 years down the line this, if it isn’t already, will be labelled a classic. This is a movie seriously worthy of your time. I urge you to see it. 

5/5

JM

  

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Battle Royale (2000)

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Could you kill your best friend? That’s the dilemma that faces a class of 15yr old students in Japan. Their class think they are going on a school trip, however the reality is that they have been chosen at random to take part in a new scheme. The scheme which has been dubbed the ‘Battle Royale Act’ by the government involves the whole class fighting to the death. Their teacher Kitano (Takeshi Kitano) tells them they are all to be tagged with an explosive collar that will detonate if removed. Then they are given a map and a bag containing food and water plus a randomly selected item, which could be a weapon like a gun or a knife, or something useless like a frisbee.

SCENE FROM CONTROVERSIAL JAPANESE FILM BATTLE ROYALE

At first the students think it to be a sick joke, that the government wouldn’t be sick or crazy enough to make them kill each other, but it’s not a joke. Crime is an epidemic and the youth are seen to be the cause of it. The government has been running the scheme with great success, and seem willing to continue it. Now before anyone says this isn’t a rip off of The Hunger Games, as this is over a good ten years older than that rubbish. This is a far more sophisticated beast, and one full of real violence and mayhem.

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At first the students try to resist harming each other, but it’s futile. Mainly down to the fact that the island they are on has been split into sectors. Each day another sector is made unsafe, and if a student remains there, then their collar will explode. So sooner or later they will meet in the centre of the island.

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This is a fantastic film. Directed by the late, brilliant Kinji Fukasaku, it’s bristling with menace. You can’t understand that a government would ever sanction something so bloodthirsty, but you can kind of understand the desperation in tackling youth crime. The sequel which was directed by Fukusaku’s son is terrible. It is just a car crash of a movie and is painful to watch. It’s obvious watching it that the talent for directing ended with Kinji. I definitely recommend this for anyone who has never seen it. If you can, seek out the directors cut which adds a little bit more flavour to proceedings.

5/5

JM

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