Takashi Miike has the game in a chokehold. The Japanese auteur, who’s deservedly praised as a genre film king thanks to brain-fucking titles like Ichi the Killer and Audition, is back with 13 Assassins, which is a bit of a creative departure.
Taking place in feudal Japan, a brutal lord named Naritsugu can’t be touched because he’s the younger brother of the Shogun. Some fear that the sadistic nutjob’s ascendancy to a higher political stage could disrupt the peace, so Shinzaemon (played by Kōji Yakusho of Shall We Dance?) gets hired to assassinate him with a clique of 13 samurais, hence the title. Soon a mismatched battle between the baker's dozen and an entire army ensues in a blockbuster 45-minute battle sequence full of dropped bodies and decapitated domes.
Though 13 Assassins is more of a samurai epic than a blood-drenched shock act, it does feature symbolic traits (i.e., unreserved violence) commonly found in Miike’s catalogue.
The 300-like saga with Japanese sword wielders comes out on April 29th.