Miike has brought to TIFF some of the most flamboyantly disturbing films I’ve ever seen. To give a sense of his usual fair, the audience was handed commemorative barf bags during the 2001’s ICHI THE KILLER screening at the beloved uptown.
With 13 ASSASSINS, Miike has created a far more restrained film, free from much of the rampant ultraviolence characteristic of several of his earlier works. Instead, we get a tight, deliberately paced sword movie, a throwback that doesn’t for a moment disguise its debts to Kurosawa. Immediately after the film I described it as “SEVEN SAMURAI, but with SIX more!”, but the style of the film actually borrows more from YOJIMBO/SANJURO, with more of the dark humour and stylistic maturity of these later works.
The films builds apace in a quite conventional way, but by the end Miike gives us some of those flourishes for which he is well known – when flaming beasts burst through a battle zone, we know we’re in for something a bit odd. The ending battles are a tour-de-force, always firmly rooted in character, and impeccably staged.
This may be a throwback to an earlier genre of action pic, but it’s done so well, with such gusto, that it’s forgiven for any of its more telegraphed moments. This is Miike you could recommend to any lover of cinema, and in toning down some of his more bomastic tendencies he’s created an accessible but no less effective work.