Koji Yakusho

Takashi Miike has been accused of many things, but the pervading opinion that his name inspires is that he is one of the most creatively insane directors currently working in any cinematic market, and that “unrestrained” approach to filmmaking usually also means that his films are anything but typical (even in comparison with their fellows). So the opportunity to see another Samurai story, swiftly on the tails of the excellent 13 Assassins, and one remade from an absolute classic in the form of Masaki Kobayashi’s 1962 classic was one mixed with excitement and trepidation. The film focuses on the story of Hanshiro (Ebizo Ichikawa), an out of work samurai who visits the House of Ii in order to request to be allowed to commit Seppuku in their courtyard (the higher the prestige of a House, the more honor the shamed warrior can regain). Convinced he is bluffing in order to take advantage of the House’s good will, Kageyu (Lord Ii’s second in command) relates the harrowing story of a fellow shamed Samurai – Motome (Eita) – who had attempted a suicide bluff to gain financially, and who was made to go through with his Seppuku as an example against bluffing. Undeterred, Hanshiro affirms his intention, and requests that the House’s top samurai assist him, though they are coincidentally absent, and it quickly becomes clear that Hanshiro has more of a connection to the young Samurai than he originally confessed… It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine a pre-Kill Bill Tarantino eying […]

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Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins isn’t just one great movie. It’s two. The first is a reverent, calm look at the brewing battle that delivers a lot of tense moments and a bit of comedy. The second is a blood bath. Literally. There are people actually bathing in blood from thousands of sliced up foes. Those pieces come together to make one incredible movie that absolutely feels like Miike channeling Kurosawa after maxing out his credit card buying karo syrup and red dye. The characters are all compelling, and they’re even more fun to watch while they’re cutting down an army like so much wheat. The action is intense enough to make the audience need to wipe sweat off its collective brow, and the movie is coming to SXSW. To celebrate that, they’ve released a brand new, stylish poster that you can only see here at FSR (until you can see it everywhere else):

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The promise of 13 Assassins is a final act that showcases some of the best, most innovative, most brutal fighting that the screen has seen. Everything leads up to it – from the introduction of the 13, to the steel-headed conversations between former allies turned enemies, to the preparation of a small town that the assassin’s leader vows to turn into a killing field. Everything leads up to it, and it delivers. It delivers with such intensity that it’s hard to breath, that it’s difficult not to stand up and cheer, that a little bad CGI doesn’t ruin the ridiculous flaming weapon that the CGI is meant to create. Fortunately, the build up to the final act is beautiful in its own right. The whole experience is brilliant and deadly. In the waning days of the samurai, an evil lord rapes young women, kills on a whim, and plans on delivering war back to the peaceful nation. Since he’s the Shogun’s younger brother, he’s above the law. However, he’s not above being killed by a band of assassins hired by a senior government official to take out the lord and leave his head somewhere in the dirt of the Japanese countryside.

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