13 Assassins – A samurai film worth your attention

13 Assassins is a film samurai fans have been waiting for. Unfortunately, it might be difficult for many to see the film in any type of theatrical setting. Assassins was released in Japan last year, and is scheduled for release in the US today (April 29th.) No theaters in Salt Lake will be showing 13 Assassins this weekend or next. This could be due to the high volume of Hollywood blockbusters scheduled for release in the coming weeks (Fast Five, Thor…) However, for those eager for a good amount of samurai action, the film is available for streaming on several websites including Amazon Instant Stream, Netflix and Itunes.

13 Assassinstakes a while to get its motor going, but the story is intreguing enough to keep you interested until the action picks up. The film is set around the end of the feudal era in Japan. The Samurai are left unemployed, trapped within a shifting culture, searching for a meaningful way to live, or die. 13 Assassins clearly draws from themes similar to those found in classic samurai films such as Seven Samurai, and Yojimbo.

The story centers around a group of assassins hired to kill the evil Lord Naritsugu. As the assassins make preparations for their mission, there are interspersed scenes giving reason to despise Naritsugu. He has absolutely no redeeming qualities, and I don’t remember hating a character so much, so early on in a movie. In contrast, the character development of the 13 samurai keeps you praying for their survival. The action sequences are well choreographed, intense, and tend to have much longer takes than most fight sequences in recent action movies.  This will be a welcome sight to those sickened by the shaky-cam, quick cut action seen in Battle:LA or the Bourne series. All action aside (and there is plenty of action) the film provides a deep look into the cultural and political shifts that took place in Japan. The film runs just over 2 hours, and from what I have read, 20 minutes have been cut from the original version released in Japan. One issue I had was the English translation. Early on it was clear that meaningful aspects of the film were lost due to the limitations when translating a film filled with heavy cultural messages. 13 Assassins is a great samurai action film that deserves more attention than a mostly online (streaming) US release.

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