Released earlier this year to wide critical acclaim, Takashi Miike’s take on the samurai flick is a tour de force of swordplay, bloodspurts and tremendous camera work. When a power-hungry lord in feudal Japan starts doling out injustices to his people—removing limbs of servants at will, hunting peasants in his courtyard with a bow and arrow, rape, murder, etc.—an old samurai gathers a group of assassins to end the people’s suffering. Along the way they pick up a feral warrior who uses a giant tree limb to bash people’s heads in, and after he joins their cause, a 30-minute final showdown involving flaming bulls, explosions, and lots of stabbing.
As a director, Miike is infamously known for his extreme depictions of sexually charged violence and stomach-churning scenes in films like Audition and Ichi the Killer. But with 13 Assassins, he pays tribute to fellow Japanese auteurs like Akira Kurosawa, and the results are spectacular.