I am supposed to be studying for my upcoming Japanese test on Monday, which requires me to study an astonishing 21 chapters, and I am choosing to break my blogging duck for July instead to post my reviews on a movie I just watched last night - the 13 Assassins. Of course I also chose to go movie watching so near to my test date in the staunch belief that I was going to be able to practice my にほんご Nihongo (being a Japanese movie and all), but alas, they were speaking in some ancient Japanese structure and I barely caught 10 words, most of which was おもしろい ("interesting/exciting") and たのしかった ("enjoyable") uttered by the psychopathic villain Lord Naritsugu, played to freaky perfection by SMAP member Goro Inagaki.
The 13 Assassins in full glory - some old men, some very hot men, and one VERY MAD man (Goro in white at the bottom of the picture).
Samurai T had actually watched part of the movie, a remake which was released in Japan last year, on Singapore Airlines' wonderful KrisWorld system during our December holidays to Taiwan. Being the bloodthirsty man that he is, he has been raving about the movie non-stop to me, and when the movie finally reached Singapore shores, he was more than game to re-watch it again with me. The Evil One was also keen to join us, since she had read that Goro had received a Japanese Oscar-equivalent for playing the Naritsugu role - and let me say that he TOTALLY deserved whatever acting accolades he got.
The Evil One and I were prepared for an all-out gore fest since we were amply warned by the Samurai and our mutual friend Z-san, who said Kill Bill was "child's play" compared to the 13 Assassins. So the Evil One quickly went to the toilet beforehand in case she pissed in fear during the show. As it was, the very first scene showed a very long painful scene of a samurai committing hara-kiri or seppuku, i.e. ritual suicide. Although they did not show all the entrails falling out, the expression on the actor's face, as well as the sound effects were sufficient to make me clutch my tummy in fear.
The plot was simple and I doubt it would be spoiling the movie for anyone in telling the whole story. A respected middle-aged Samurai, Shinzaemon, was tasked by Sir Doi, a senior advisor on the Shogun's Council, to assassinate the Shogun's half brother, Lord Naritsugu, a most sadistic and evil man, before he could take his place on the Shogun's Council and wreck havoc on Japan. The audience was quickly made aware of how coldly insane Naritsugu was by flashing back to his multiple crimes, chief of which consisted of a screaming LIMBLESS woman shedding tears of blood whose image would be ingrained in my brain for a long time to come. His insanity was boundless, and Goro made the character even more frightening by being calmly aloof (instead of cackling with mad laughter) as he carried out his nefarious deeds. Thereafter, Shinzaemon gathered his band of brothers and the last hour was just all-out slaughter between the 13 assassins, against Naritsugu's party of 250 (!!!) men in a remote village full of death traps.
Naritsugu was the only one dressed in pristine white throughout the movie, irony being he was the evillest of them all.
The brilliance of the film lay in the execution of the story - laying the groundwork on why Naritsugu must be killed, the bonding and motives of the various Samurai, to the eventual climatic battle unto-death. It was engaging, it was gripping, it was BLOODY. It was funny in parts, too funny especially in the scenes involving the last assassin, Kiga, a mountain hunter-cum-potential mountain spirit, and the cinema broke out into loud guffaws in spite of the serious themes involved. The Evil One and I still had time to admire several hunky Samurai (yums, ronin Hirayama) even as they were being sliced to pieces. Suffice to say, this being an almost one-sided contest, most of the assassins met a glorious (in their warped Samurai mentality) and gory end.
We enjoyed ourselves tremendously, with the Evil One proclaiming it was one of the best movies she had seen in a long time. I wouldn't go that far, since I was never fond of violent movies, but it was a movie that was definitely worth all the time and money you spent on it. Thankfully in spite of my fears, I was too tired to have a nightmare of a limbless woman crying blood emerging in my dreams.
Near the end - the killing fields.