13 AssassinsThis movie was done incredibly well.  13 Assassins is about these 13 Assassins (yeah I know right!) who plan to kill a sadistic young Lord named Matsudaira Naritsugu.

We’re introduced to Matsudaira through the experiences of those around him, all sadistic and somewhat tragic to see on screen.  

When a young man’s  new wife is sent to comfort Matsudaira, he drags her into his private quarters and rapes her.  When her husband bursts in to see his wife on the floor in distress, he goes over to comfort her, when Matsudaira kill boths of them ruthlessly with his katana.

Following that, the father of the man (who was killed with his wife) enters discussion to have Matsudaira killed.  Discussing how sadistic his ways are, they talk of a Government official how committed seppuku (suicide) when he saw how tragic the world will become when Matsudaira comes into power.

Furthermore they bring in a young girl who is revealed to have no arms or legs stating that Matsudaira chopped off her limbs and kept her around for his amusement. It is also revealed that he later got bored with her and cast her aside, also chopping out her tongue.

The two men then decide to assemble a team of assassins and kill Matsudaira, just before another scene is shown of him using a family for target practice with his bow and arrow.

Competing friends become enemies

The man in charge of the 13 Assassins is named Shinzaemon.  Shinzaemon trained with another Samurai by the name of Hanbei.

Hanbei serves his master Matsudaira loyally – despite disagreeing with his sadistic ways.  His belief is that a Samurai must serve his master to the end, while Shinzaemon wants to fight for a larger cause.

Hanbei refers to Shinzaemon as “not the most shrewd or clever, but backed into a corner he will never overplay his hand”  and we’re lead to believe he is a consistent warrior who will never give up and will be exceedingly difficult to defeat.

Of course the two men meet at the end and have fight to the death.  With Hanbei being the samurai with the most victories between the two in their competitive years, leading to an extremely well matched fight.

Good vs Evil

This is as raw a good vs evil movie as you can find, set in a real world where men have to die in order to make a difference.

Since the 13 Assassins live in a period without war, killing and death takes some time for a few of them to adjust to.  But for the greater cause they push on, many of them understanding that their lives may very well end for this objective.

With the sadistic ways of Matsudaira, it’s easy to see why such an effort to take on a larger enemy is made.  With Matsudaira stating after the final battle that this was ‘the most exciting day of my life’ – thanking Shinzaemon.  He also quotes that death creates a real gratitude and appreciation of life and he believes that it’s exciting.  He even speculates about bringing war back to the country for this reason.

While the appreciation for life is a true statement, his sadistic approach to creating it really gives you an insight into how screwed up Matsudaira is. This also helps you to understand why most of these men will die to have him gone so the country and their families can lead happy lives.

The Action & Martial Arts

The action is fantastic – not as flashy and superficial as most martial arts films.  This movie demonstrates the grittiness of battle with real Samurai style and use of military strategy.

Bloody Fight Scenes

As the 13 Men are forced to fight an army of 200, they really deck out an almost empty town to set as many traps and strategic fighting positions so they can narrow the advantage of their numbers and use their superior one on one skill to kill the enemy.

No mercy! There’s no samurai code or fair play in battle! No sword? Use a stick. No stick? Use a rock. No rock? Use your fists and feet! Lose your life, but make the enemy pay! “

This quote is a real testament to the approach toward battle these guys had – and it was well demonstrated with plenty of brilliantly choreographed swordwork – especially during the final epic battle that last for a good 30-40 minutes.  Excellent.

Would I recommend it?

This isn’t a film for the family, make sure you’re got a good stomach for seeing sadistic things shot on camera and plenty of blood and violence.  If you’re good for that, check it out for sure!

On Blu-Ray –

Region A (US & Canada)
13 Assassins on Blu-ray

Region B (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, etc)
13 Assassins on Blu-ray

On DVD –

Region 1 (US & Canada)
13 Assassins on DVD

Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
13 Assassins on DVD

Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
13 Assassins on DVD 

More info on DVD & Blu Ray regions here

25 Martial Arts Movies All Fans Must See - FREE

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