July 13, 2011

Justify My Netflix: 13 Assassins

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

13 Assassins

Today's movie: 13 Assassins, 2010 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is the latest by revered Japanese cult director and extreme horror pioneer Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer), in this case a historical drama of all things, executive-produced by the same guy who gave the international community The Last Emperor and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.

The reality: Not bad! Although let me start with the fact that I don't particularly care for the genre of extreme horror, and that this is the first film by Miike I've actually seen, so won't be able to even begin comparing it to his other work. But that said, this is not exactly the Oscar-friendly historical drama that it's being desperately marketed as here in America, but rather something more along the lines of The Seven Samauri meets Saw, essentially the tale of a group of acquaintances who get together in the late 1800s (during the very last gasps of feudal Japan) and conspire to kill the emperor's number-two advisor, a local rural warlord who has recently had a psychotic snap and now does things like use live babies as targets during his daily archery practice; because man, when the group eventually lures the warlord and his army into an abandoned small village that's been turned into a veritable killing factory (the main set piece of the movie, and a scene which lasts an entire hour -- the first hour is basically nothing more than an extended introduction to it), and that crazy-ass gate full of logs sticking out in every direction slams shut behind them, I swear to God I was just waiting for some clown-faced serial killer to step out of the shadows and begin detailing all the various poetically ironic ways that everyone would be dying over the next sixty minutes. The whole film is like this, frankly, at its heart yet another piece of gonzo torture porn but here wrapped in a shiny, expensive layer of mainstream respectability, a schizophrenic experience that I have to admit I found interesting but not exactly engaging; but like I said, I've never really been a member of Miike's intended audience, and I suspect that this film will be loved much more intensely by those who can still hear the name Quentin Tarantino without rolling their eyes in angry frustration. A visually impressive experiment that was definitely worth the time it took to watch, although I'm not sure if I would call it any better than that, and it comes with an only limited recommendation today.

Worth your time? If you're a fan of gonzo horror films, yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:51 AM, July 13, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |