Film and TV

13 Assassins: A Bloody Love Letter

When New Times blogger Michelle Martinez and her partner, musician E.J. Rodriguez, are not watching movies, they're talking about them.They've even been known to stop a movie to discuss it.

Michelle: At times, 13 Assassins was so violent, I had to close my eyes. There are just some things you can not unsee. 

E.J.: It's an homage to the great Samurai films of the '60s, that in-turn inspired many other American plots, where a group is assembled to take out a guy that "needed killin." And the Shogun's little brother sure needed killing. The director, Takashi Miike, is known for horror and gore.

Michelle: The set-up of the film, the display of terror this guy spews that warrants a team of hired swords to hunt him down, was the hardest to watch. The rest of it, the battles between the samurai and Naritsugu (the Shogun's younger brother), was exciting and clever despite its blood. The violence it took to bring him down seemed more justified.

E.J.: The beginning played like a horror movie, with this spoiled Naritsugu guy doing all that evil shit. The rest, more like a Akira Kurosawa film. It was like Seven Samurai in that an experienced older Samurai rounds up a band of men to fight the bad guys. There was a total nod to Roshomon with the 13th samurai, the crazy ass hunter. He was played just like the Toshiro Mifune character, all animalistic.

Michelle: The opening scene of the important, yet disgraced, samurai committing, um...

E.J.: Seppuku. Harakiri.

Michelle: Yes, that. The scene is framed similarly to the trial scenes in Roshomon, only this gets more violent then anything Kurosawa ever did, or even Sam Peckinpaw or Robert Rodriguez. With Rodriguez, his violence is almost humorous. Miike had some dark humor here, but it was in the dialogue.

E.J.: I really liked how it showed a side of the feudal era in Japan that most Samurai movies leave out. I'm no expert, but most of the movies set in this era I have seen kind of create this myth that all samurai are noble. When I was younger I read some books about samurais and there you saw a glimpse of this dark side, but it really comes out in this film. Like the saying goes, "absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Michelle: This film is a remake of the 1963 version by Eiichi Kudo. It was kind of clear to me at the beginning how it would all turn out, but getting to that outcome was a wild and bloody ride. I am just happy to see a story about the last days of the Samurai era that did not have Tom Cruise in it.

13 Assassins opens at FilmBar Thursday, May 26. Click here for showtimes.

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Michelle Martinez