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11.13 ASSASSINS

Director: Takashi Miike
Stars: Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya, Goro Inagaki
You don’t need to be a longtime fan of samurai movies to appreciate, or even love, controversial genre master Takashi Miike’s exemplary 13 Assassins. Boasting a well-formed villain and Wild Bunch-like crew of sword-wielding antiheroes, the Japanese director’s enormous action flick is a visceral jaw-dropper accessible enough for anyone who’s paid to see mindless fisticuffs pics like The Expendable; unlike Sly Stallone’s altogether generic work, though, 13 Assassins is one-of-a-kind.

The first half of Miike’s film is straightforward, introducing the baker’s dozen amount of heroes and establishing their suicide mission (to get rid of an evil warlord) through expository monologues and quick shots of gory violence. But once the climactic battle sequence kicks off, 13 Assassins instantly upgrades into pure astonishment. The film’s last 40 minutes comprise one masterfully staged battle, with Miike providing each character his own satisfying payoff in the midst of impeccable sword fights and more corpses than two George A. Romero’s movies combined. It’s truly a sight to behold.

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