Screened as part of NZIFF 2011

13 Assassins 2010

Jusannin no shikaku

Directed by Miike Takashi

This new Japanese sword-fighting classic by Miike Takashi is possibly the greatest men-on-a-mission movie since the original Seven Samurai. “Thrilling and funny, visually exquisite and emotionally charged.” — Philadelphia Inquirer

Japan / UK In Japanese with English subtitles
126 minutes



Umezawa Michihiko
Ichikawa Minami
Shiraishi Toichiro
Ohno Takahiro
Yoshida Hirotsugu
Maeda Shigeji


Tengan Daisuke. Based on a story by Ikemiya Shoichiru


Kita Nobuyasu


Yamashita Kenji


Endo Koji


Yakusho Koji
Yamada Takayuki
Iseya Yusuke
Inagaki Goro
Ichimura Masachika
Hira Mikijiro
Matsukata Hiroki
Sawamura Ikki
Furuta Arata


Venice, Toronto, Pusan, Vancouver, London 2010; Rotterdam 2011


Director Miike Takashi is a filmmaking machine and 13 Assassins is the maestro cranking it in top gear. Turning towards the chambara (sword-fighting movies) he adored as youth, he’s applied a much bigger budget and taken far more care than usual to create one of the finest Japanese films in years. In 1844, Japan is ruled by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Shimada Shinzaemon is secretly asked to assassinate an evil lord. Shinzaemon assembles a Dirty Dozen plus one to ambush the lord on his annual journey home. Outnumbered 15 to one, it appears they have no chance of surviving. Luckily honour, heart and a trick or two may just balance the books. Miike, channelling epic Kurosawa, has enough humour and nods to contemporary Japanese society to create something fresh and new out of the past. The final 45 minutes of this film could be his best orchestrated action sequence, a true marvel of construction and fiery kinetic thrills. — AT

"The film is terrifically entertaining, an ambitious big-budget epic, directed with great visuals and sound... Samurai films have a rich history, and Miike evokes it elegantly with traditional costumes, idealistic dialogue, sharp characterizations... In 13 Assassins, characters are involved who we know and understand, and the general melee is broken down into structured vignettes... While watching 13 Assassins, I was sure CGI effects must have been used, but I was rarely able to notice them. That's the point, as it always was in traditional special effects: to deceive the eye, not insult it... Here is a film that could be studied for its lessons by the manufacturers of Friday night action blockbusters." — Roger Ebert