May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
June 7, 2011
I never thought I’d see the day when First Things — the ecumenical journal founded by Richard John Neuhaus — would review a film by Takashi Miike, one of cinema’s great enfants terrible, but here you go:
Ultra-violence, as A Clockwork Orange’s protagonist reminds us, is an art. Takashi Miike agrees, judging from his new remake of Eiichi Kudo’s Thirteen Assassins(Jusan nin no shikaku). The thirteen warriors slash, spin, and sever their way through hordes of butter-fingered baddies, but the movie is not just a mindless display of butchery; somewhere between the rivers of blood and the piles of bodies, Miike has managed to hide a serious, if perhaps unintentional, discussion of virtue in a virtue-less world.
The movie presents violence as the only form in which any other virtue can manifest itself. Throughout the film, the few acts of loyalty and bravery are always expressed in violence toward oneself or others, from the hara-kiri with which the movie opens to the bloodbath that precedes Naritsugu’s death. The heroic assassins are masters of death, and only in the bloody strokes of the sword can their courage be seen.Thirteen Assassins’ sense of virtue is a radical regression away from the structures of social virtue to the savage primacy of physical violence.
Thirteen Assassins is currently available on-demand from various vendors including iTunes and Amazon and will be released on DVD/Blu-ray on July 5 by Magnet.