Tag Archives: Kurosawa

13 Assassins: The Eerie 7 Samurai Brother

Brought to the international market by the famous producer of Departures, a famous film talked about in my household, Toshiaki Nakazawa, and given to me by the power of Netflix, comes 13 Assassins. I know I just did a review on a movie called Bodyguards and Assassins, but this movie comes from a similar historical (loosely based) standpoint with a lot of no nonsense action to it. And I mean a lot of no nonsense, balls to the walls action. There’s not a lot interspersed, as with B&A, but it delivers in the end with a huge ass scene of carnage.

Set in the 1840s Japan during the era of the feudal Shogun, a young political rapscallion, Matsudaira Naritsugu is running train all over the place. Son of the former Shogun and bound to rise in his political standing, this evil young man thinks he cannot die and is above the law. He even made a nugget sex slave out of a poor little Japanese woman. Hard to watch and hard to

Quite a bit of violence in this movie. Good costumes too.

stomache, some have even committed  seppuku, the ritualistic Japanese honorable suicide. Shown twice in the movie, it is an unpleasant act that, I have to say was tastefully done with the pull away shot that just suggests at the horror of slitting open your own stomach forcefully.

So this young man must be stopped. An aged samurai and political figure, Shinzaemon is planning on doing so. After seeing the injustices done on other family houses, no longer will those under the power of the Shogun stand for his little brother’s insolence. So, in true 7 Samurai fashion, this guy goes out and finds 13 samurai, the last of a dying occupation, in order to do the job. These guys range widely in status and character, but they all plan on fufilling their duty with conviction and honor.

Can you tell who's who?

After some awful background on this political Shogun relative bastard, the training montage begins. Not really a training montage, but a recruitment scene and subsequent honing of the skills. Followed closely by a planning stage and execution of said plan, we get a little trip to the site of the final (and really only) big battle. There are ambushes, strategies of true intellect, and dire tragedy. With no one safe and everyone’s honor on the line, who will come out victorious?

I must say the overall feel of this movie was true to its 1963 original. I’m also sure there has to be some influence from Kurosawa’s classic of 7 Samurai. I wouldn’t have put it in the title otherwise. A bunch of tough guns coming

They're really going at it...

together to stop a greater evil in a big showdown? Not many survive and evil must be thwarted at all costs? Yeah, I got that vibe from this movie. I wouldn’t have minded if this movie was in black and white either. The grainy quality of the film and the guerilla style of the landscape and shooting really gave it that end of an era, last action of a dying and barbaric peoples feel. That’s what I enjoyed, and the true suggestion of violence without entirely showing it that you get from horror movies of the 80’s and 90’s. A true classic approach to film.

This has a true 7 Samurai feel to it.

What I didn’t like about it was the confusing nature of the characters. I can’t help it, but I gotta be a bit racist. Coming from an American, white person perspective, there were a lot of Asians running around who held very little difference in stature and character to me. You can attempt to pick out your favorites, but the movie made no effort in order to discern one person from another. Maybe this was done to show the collective resolve of the characters, but it became tedious towards the end.

Another thing that I hated/loved at the same time in this film (and I mean those terms lightly) is the action in the film. For those who like a bit more stylized violence in their viewing experience, you may not find that here. For those who love the chaos and the brutality of a film that just takes one massive battle and puts it into a gigantic perspective, this may be more your style. Coming from a priviledge era of spurting blood and close ups on decapitations, this movie pulls away from that. Focusing more on the feel of battle and not the gruesome details, you may not see more than some red hacks and slashes on bodies. And at the same time that that is happening, I’m not exactly sure how true to the Samurai Way that this film is. These guys, despite their training, seemed to just go out and wave their swords around like 13 year old tweens wanting to defeat Darth Maul in their backyards. I guess I’ll leave that up to people who actually know true sword technique.

Pretty damn cinematic.

With a bit of a lackluster acting chops cast, some of the more emotional scenes were lost on me. Maybe not towards the beginning with the injustices done by the evil Shogunate, maybe not even the death scenes that abound in this movie, but surely on the delivery of lines. This detracted from the period piece I felt this movie could have been, but if you’re a fan of Samurai 7, you need to check this movie out. Kurosawa would be proud. A decent 6.5 out of 10.

Advertisements

Bunraku: Paper Punishing Dolls

Suck it, R.T...

Alright, first off, death to Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not really sure where this website gets off giving this film 16% (why the hell a percent?) “approval” rating or however they go about rating all films. I’m just assuming at this point that they shit all over action films and take no account of the true purpose of an action film. Action. That’s what the damn genre is called and that’s what I expect. So this critique websites that don’t really go too hard into giving the least bit of credit where credit is due, need to re-evaluate what’s going on. Maybe I should rename my blog “Reviews from the Silver Lining,” cause there’s rarely a film I can’t take something away from and appreciate it for that fact. Even if it’s horrible, there are a lot of people whose blood, sweat, and tears went into that film. And they deserve at least a worthwhile evaluation of, I would suppose, a life’s pursuit. Come off it.

And I found a damn lot right with this movie. The title of the film coming from the Japanese art of paper doll plays, this movie created a landscape in which the actions and scenarios displayed on film could be believed. From one

The Drifter (Hartnett) and Yoshi (Gackt). A dynamic duo.

direction of town comes The Drifter (Josh Hartnett). The other, a Samurai named Yoshi (not Nintendo related) without a sword or honor. In a world without guns, an all out brawler and sword expert come together to absolutely Tech Deck wreck a bunch of foolish thugs.

And why do they come to this town? They come to kill the Woodcutter, Nicola (Ron Pearlman). With a debt to repay and a talisman to recover, these two must join forces in order to conquer the evil

Word Ron Pearlman. Choke a Demi.

that has taken of the East. Without a specific location, this movie took on a whole new post-apocalyptic world in which, finally, sissy-ass guns have been laid to rest. The only movies I ever want to see guns in are The Matrix and Equilibrium. Enough said. Upon this landscape of raised paper houses, anything and all can happen when you can swing like a prizefighter and run house like Kurosawa.

For a half arthouse, half action packed punch, this movie brings out the action side with a lot of action stars. From Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, and

I gotta say Hartnett worked shit in this one.

Lucky Number Slevin comes Josh Hartnett. His no talk, just rape (in whatever sick and twisted good way you can talk about utter destruction) this guy lays waste to those who would doubt him. Next up, and most notably, is Gackt, Japanese singing sensation and all around beautiful face. Among other talents, Gackt can speak English far more fluently and clearly than say, Ken Wantanabe in Inception (what happened between Last Samurai and that?). His sword skills are a bit jumpy at parts, but who wouldn’t expect that from a pretty boy singing prodigy? He is in his late 30’s…

Kevin McKidd as Assassin #2. What a character.

Throw in Ron Pearlman, face of Hellboy and a handful of other well known action films. There could have never been another soul alive who could have played Hellboy half as well as he did. And he wasn’t the worst at Nicola either. Give another little toss to Woody Harrelson of Natural Born Killers and more recently Zombieland. Not a big fan, but he did his part as The Bartender. He just never really stands out to me… Demi Moore for the old woman looks, and here’s the surprise. Kevin McKidd. This Scottish bastard had a cocky, yet strange way about him in this film that I found almost endearing. In quite a few period pieces and my favorite, Hannibal Rising, this is the first movie I think… (other than Trainspotting) that I knew this guy was from Scotland. A little bravo your way, McKidd.

Lovin' that background layout right there.

So we got the cast, the setting, and the situation. It’s all coming together. And what ties it up in a neat little bow? It for sure wasn’t the 2 hours this movie was allotted. It felt more like 3… It was the special effects. provided by Snoot FX, the locations and shooting styles felt action-y (?) and the fluidity of the fight scenes and the transitions (especially Hartnett’s fight scene in breaking out Yoshi from prison) was just top notch. It just gave such an interesting and non-retarded Sin City feel to it that I was hooked.

As Dennis Harvey of Varietysaid of the film about its fake flower feel, all color and no substance/life, I’d have to say he missed the point of the film. He was definitely batting from the ballpark of critical art film acclaim, when he should have been coming from what the essence of a Samurai/Western would be. Include the feeling of a theatrical Japanese paper doll show, and you have Bunraku. Not something tacky, but a whole new way to tell a story that I truly appreciate. That was its best part. A solid 7.6 out of 10.

Could it get better?