13Assassins is set in Feudal Japan at the turn of the century. It is the story of a horrible man who abuses his power as the Shogun’s brother and kills, tortures, slaughters, maims, disfigures, and does other things to people for entertainment.
In the very beginning of the movie he beat and rapes a woman and when her husband comes he acts like nothing happened and then cuts the man’s head off, and forces the wife to slit her throat. The purpose of this is character development and also to make you hate the antagonist. If that didn’t make you hate him enough you also see him shooting a family that is tied up with arrows. He shoots them in places they won’t die so it hurts more. The last one to die is a little girl.
But perhaps even worse than that if you can believe it, is what he does to this one nameless girl. He cut off both her arms and legs, and then uses her as a play thing. One of the protagonists finds her almost dead in the mud during a storm. Later on you find out that she also had her tongue cut out. You really want to see him die after what he’s done and the whole movie is about killing him.
The movie shouldn’t really be called 13 Assassins. It should be called 13 Samurai. I think I might know why they didn’t call it that though. There is already a movie titled The 7 Samurai. They probably didn’t want to get them confused. The head Assassin goes around recruiting other warriors to go into battle with him. He makes them give their lives to him. The Samurai’s wish is to die in battle serving their master.
This is where I started to notice the movie’s lack of music. Aside from a couple music cues here and there, there isn’t really any music in the movie. I think this makes it much more dramatic and suspenseful. There are often very long takes of a single shot of dialogue, or just complete silence. The movie is made to seem old and is in the style of old Samurai films. The movie is spoken entirely in traditional Japanese and written that way too.
They end up with 12 Assassins, not 13. It could be hard telling them apart sometimes because they wore the same outfit. This is where I realized that the movie was a lot like 300. In 300 there are 300 Spartans going to war against over 100,000 Persians. The Spartans don’t expect to win but they expect to show their pride and actually win in the long run. In 13 Assassins its 13 men against over 200. Both movies have a small well-trained force against a larger but less skilled force. In both movie’s both sides have a clear leader.
The Assassins set up traps in a city where they intend to fight off the enemies and kill the antagonist. They slow down their enemies by stopping them from crossing a bridge. Afterwards the man who stopped them commits Hara Kiri, which is a form of suicide for Samurai.
They find their 13th member trapped in a net in the woods. He despises the idea and standard of samurai but wants to help them. This character becomes the comic relief. I find that weird even without that character there were still parts that were supposed to be funny. They are actually pretty funny, but it’s just a little odd because the movie is otherwise very dark in tone.
The entire 3rd act of the movie is the battle in the city. This part is officially the longest battle ever committed to film. During the battle many enemies die as well as 11 of the Assassins. The villain leaves with 2 soldiers and his personal bodyguard. They are stopped by the 2 remaining Assassins, the leader and his nephew. There is a one on one showdown between the Assassin leader and the body guard. They are actually brothers. They have some dialogue while they fight and the Assassin wins with a dirty move, which I though was odd. He accepts this, then his head is cut off. The nephew deals with the remaining enemies off-screen while the leader goes after the villain. He actually kicks the head of the man that just sacrificed himself for him. The Assassin leader lets himself get stabbed through the stomach, so he can die can die with honor. But not before killing the guy he’s after. He stabs him and they pose, swords through each other. The villain almost starts crying. He falls in the mud and tries to cry away while saying he’s afraid of death. He has no care about human life, except his own. He says it was the most entertaining day of his life, and then has his head chopped off then the leader dies.
A few more things to say, the sound effects are amazing which makes the next more true. All of the violence in the beginning of the movie is off-screen or implied. For example, the movie starts with a man committing Hara Kiri. All you can see is face and shoulders. The amazing sound effects adds to the implied violence. People leave the movie thinking they saw horrible things when they really were just made to think that. A lot of movies do that, like Scarface or early Quentin Tarantino movies.