Japanese samurai movie pokes fun at tradition

Thu Sep 9, 2010 7:33am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE (Reuters) - Prolific Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike's "13 Assassins" is a surprisingly conventional remake of a 1963 samurai movie, but he injects enough horror and humour to win over viewers at the Venice film festival.

The film, one of 24 in the festival's main competition lineup, is based on Eiichi Kudo's black-and-white picture of the same name, and it could appeal to Venice jury president Quentin Tarantino, a martial arts enthusiast.

Set in 1844, the film follows a band of 12 samurai and one hilarious hanger-on as they seek to bring down the cruel Lord Naritsugu, who rapes and kills at will in the knowledge that his status as the Shogun's brother will protect him.

Led by the noble Shinzaemon Shimada (Koji Yakusho), the rebels know they are on a suicide mission against vastly superior numbers, but that does not deter them as they prepare for battle using elaborate traps and expert swordsmanship.

In one early scene, an eerie-looking and emaciated girl who has had her arms and lower legs severed by Naritsugu is brought before Shinzaemon.

She cannot tell him what happened to her family because her tongue has been cut out, but when she writes the words "total massacre," the hero keeps them close to his heart as he sets out on his path for revenge.

Most of the laughs come from Koyata (Yusuke Iseya), a wild mountain man who fights alongside the more formal samurai using stones and a sling and who criticizes them for their arrogance.

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