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Plot:

A sadistic Daimyo (feudal lord) rapes a woman and murders both her and her husband, but even when one of his own vassals commits suicide to bring attention to the crime, the matter is quickly hushed up. Not only will there be no punishment, but because the Daimyo is the Shogun’s younger brother, he will soon be appointed to a high political position from which he could wreak even more havoc. Convinced that the fate of the Shogunate hangs in the balance, a plot is hatched to assassinate the Daimyo. The two most brilliant strategic minds of their generation find themselves pitted against each other; one is tasked to defend a man he despises, and has a small army at his disposal. The other is given a suicide mission, and has 12 brave men. They are the 13 Assassins.

Also Known As: Jûsan-nin no shikaku, 13-nin no shikaku, 13 Assassinos, 13 Assassins West, The Thirteen Assassins, A tizenhárom gyilkos, Les 13 tueurs, 13 Assassins, Тринадесет убийци

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  • milica-kolaric
    milica kolaric

    13 Assassins is a Japanese jidaigeki or period drama as well as chanbara or sword fighting action film. Despite a solid reputation in its home country, the film was critically overlooked by international cinephiles and only came back into the spotlight following the critically acclaimed remake of the same name by veteran director Miike Takashi that is surprisingly close to the original film.The story revolves around ruthless Lord Matsudaira who rapes a young woman who works in an inn and then proceeds to kill her lover. Appalled by his actions, a high-ranking official commits seppuku. Due to his connections to the shogun, Lord Matsudaira is also about to be elected into a Council of Elders which would make him even more influential. Another high-ranking official named Sir Doi understands that such a raise to power by such a ruthless person could lead to revolts and ultimately a civil war. In order to prevent such a worst case scenario, Sir Doi starts to organize a conspiracy and proceeds to hire twelve samurai who are asked to ambush as assassinate Lord Matsudaira during one of his travels. With the help of the inn owner who seeks revenge and blocks the usual route of Lord Matsudaira, the ruthless man and his companions are forced to take a different route and go through a remote village. It’s at this precise place that the twelve assassins, now supported by a local swordsman who joins them, set up numerous traps to complete their bloody mission.This movie convinces on numerous levels. The cinematography is gorgeous with calm camera work, beautiful traditional costumes and stunning landscapes. The movie has a constant gloomy undertone and is quite explicit for its time when showing the lord’s brutal actions. Thanks to precise acting performances, the audience empathizes with courageous Sir Doi and feels strongly against selfish Lord Matsudaira. The first half of the movie takes its time to introduce the audience to the different characters, settings and historic circumstances. The second half is quite fast-paced and focuses on intense fights and clever traps during the ambush. The fight choreographies are skillful, intense and entertaining to watch.The movie has aged rather well. The only differences between this film and the remake are that the remake shows much more blood and is obviously not shot in black and white. If you like atmospheric sword fighting action films, you will certainly like both the original version and the remake. It’s great that this critically overlooked old gem finally gets the attention it truly deserves.

  • dr-toth-bela
    dr toth bela

    Outstanding jidai-geki, first of Kudo’s trilogy which reflects its time of production while elaborating and exceeding the genre tropes. The characters, protagonist and antagonist alike, are typically shown to be motivated by bushido. However the late Tokugawa setting establishes these not as typical giri/ninjo conflicts of the genre, but as largely outdated ethics that turn their proponents into victims of historical and social forces beyond their control or full comprehension.Often overlooked abroad, 13 Assassins is clearly on the same level of excellence as Masaki Kobayashi’s Seppuku or Hiroshi Inagaki’s Chushingura/Loyal 47 Ronin of the year before. It shares the revolutionary spirit and critical sensibility of Hideo Gosha, Kihachi Okamoto and Kenji Misumi. And the climactic village death trap might even be interestingly contrasted to the finale of Seven Samurai.******************SPOILER*AHEAD************************This sentiment is even voiced more explicitly by the assassins leader, played by Chiezo Kataoka during his final duel with the villain’s otherwise noble chamberlain, Ryuhei Uchida. They are not killing one another out of personal malice, but necessity, and it is the anti-climactic fashion of Kataoka’s end that defies the cliché of genre expectations.So too does the subsequent death of his loyal vassal, played by Ko Nishimura. The dying Kataoka tells his men to call a halt to the now even more senseless killing, as their historic objective has been reached. However, word does not reach the desperate and unarmed Nishimura in time. Instead of the noble death we might expect for a character of his type, he is brutally killed after a series of dodges and attempts to escape.Much of the dialogue throughout makes a point of how many koku of land/rice each main character’s title encompasses. This serves to drive home the point of human life’s precise monetary value, even more so does the film’s final shot.I was a little disappointed after having seen Tetsuro Tanba and Junko Fuji in the opening credits to find that they are not featured that prominently. However, the film certainly does not suffer as a result. Akira Ifukube’s score is typically great, and the art direction of Tokumichi Igawa, (Makai tensho, Iga ninpocho) is spectacular. The 13 assassins’ conversion of the village into a series of death traps provides an excellent backdrop which supports the theme by providing countless opportunities for strategic retreat and indirect combat.

  • cynthia-adams
    cynthia adams

    The story of Thirteen Assassins begins with a vassal of the Akashi clan committing seppuku in front of a daimyo’s house. As it turns out, it’s in protest to his lord raping and killing a girl and her samurai husband. This scandal is quickly covered up as the Akashi lord happens to be the Shogun’s younger brother. What makes matters worse is that this reckless scoundrel will be soon appointed to a higher political position which could prove to be detrimental for the entire Shogunate. In response to that, a plot is hatched: 13 assassins will undertake the suicide mission to murder him on his way back from Edo.The movie can be roughly split in two parts. The first hour is purely character-driven, in a anti-establishment style that resembles Masaki Kobayashi and his masterful work in Seppuku and Samurai Rebellion. The last half hour is totally action-oriented as we see the Akashi clan entourage being trapped in a village and fighting to protect their lord, at which point the film channels heavily the corresponding part of Seven Samurai.Very good, obscure, jidai-geki from the 60’s done in stark monochrome, the genre’s proper palette. Kudo is a moderate talent who draws heavily from the tradition of filmmaking he belongs to, but competently executes his material. We find here familiar jidai-geki themes; oppression of the weak by those in authority, old friends that have to face off, a vassal that sees how villainous his lord is yet he doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice his life for him. It’s not quite as elaborate and tragic as Kobayashi’s work and is pretty much abandoned after the first half hour where the emphasis shifts to the planning of the assassination, but it still provides a solid dramatic backdrop. The final battle could have been better though, not bad by any means but it won’t make any best-final-fights lists either.Overall a very solid and commendable effort, beautiful to look at with a nice story and some action to go with it. Fans of the genre will want to take a look.

  • tara-ramos
    tara ramos

    A provincial lord kills and rapes with impunity, but no-one can touch him because he’s the Shogun’s younger brother. After one of the wronged parties publicly commits hara-kiri, a minister decides enough is enough and, though his hands are officially tied, drops big hints to a trusted samurai before telling him the Japanese equivalent of ‘this conversation never took place’.The samurai gathers eleven others (the twelfth will join them later), tells them it’s a suicide mission (naturally they’re all up for it) and they hatch a plan to ambush the evil lord on the long journey from Edo (the ancient name for Tokyo) to his home province. But the would-be assassins are outnumbered four to one by the lord’s crack team of bodyguards, whose leader is a resourceful man…This is the first of Eiichi Kudo’s films I’ve seen, and now I can’t wait to watch the others. Like Masaki Kobayashi’s Hara-Kiri and Rebellion, it’s in fabulous widescreen black and white. The sprawling cast of characters is a little confusing at first, but gradually some of the individual samurai begin to stand out from the crowd – the cool swordsman, the cynical wastrel, the joker with gambling debts.There aren’t really any memorable duels like the one in Hara-Kiri, but the final battle is terrific. The samurai take over a village, convert it into one big labyrinthine mousetrap, and close off alternative routes to ensure their target and his men will end up there. It’s a superbly choreographed and sustained set-piece, and unbelievably tense. There are several similarities with The Seven Samurai; Kudo provides us in advance with a map of the area in which the showdown will take place, and ensures the two sides can be easily distinguished from one another by the hue of their costumes, so even though the action is chaotic, we don’t get lost.Highly recommended for fans of The Seven Samurai and Jidaigeki in general. If you can read French subtitles, it’s available on a beautifully restored Region 2 DVD in a boxed set from the French company Wild Side. If British or American DVD distributors have any sense, they’ll get it subtitled into English as well.