(2010) director Takashi Miike
It’s no Seven Samurai (1954). But it is a samurai film cast from a mold not unlike that classic Akira Kurosawa film. But this is no Kurosawa film. This is a Takashi Miike film. However, though it is a Takeshi Miike film, it bears very little of Miike’s outre weirdness, iconoclasm, or shock value. It’s a much more mainstream affair.
Miike does have a broader range, not all of his films are nutso-crazo genre mash-ups, but certainly, his best work, or at least most provocative work is something much more akin to exploitation. He’s channeled Hitchcock (Audition (2000)), gone totally over the top in Ichi the Killer (2001), gone to places that most Freudians could not have dreamed of (Visitor Q (2001)), and has even made kids movies (The Great Yokai War (2005)).
So, who is to doubt him going for a more “classic” style, an epic samurai flick, with mere hints of the bizarre? Well, no one puts Miike in a corner.
13 Assassins got reasonable reviews, but it’s nothing spectacular. Of all the samurai films that I’ve seen, the best ones have a keen visual style, are often societal critiques. But Miike’s film doesn’t really resonate as political material for me. And visually, it’s nothing special.
Actually, at this point, maybe Miike is past his prime. Perhaps like so many outsider film-makers, success earns more money and freedom, but winds up pushing them into more watered down versions of their strengths. Maybe this is the kind of movie that Miike always dreamed of making. Sadly, it’s just not all that good. It’s not terrible by any means, but it’s unoriginal, unspectacular, lacking in verve.