Based on the trailer, this looks like a movie about a bunch of samurai (13 to be exact) who have to kill an evil warlord. Sounds a bunch like seven samurai, except this time there’s thirteen ’cause this movie is bigger and betterer.
Is this movie good? Is it bad? I really can’t say, because I only saw about twenty minutes of it. Not because it was bad, but because in all those first twenty minutes all we get is a series of horrors that make Saw look like child’s play.
Let me make this clear: it’s rare that I walk out of a movie. No matter how dull it may be. Or, for that matter, how violent. I have no objection to violence…as long as it’s in the service of a good story.
And to be fair, that may have been the case here. Maybe the rest of the movie was really good. But the problem was, I wasn’t seeing enough story to make up for all the really ***ed up sh** on the screen. I’ll never know, because the first fifteen minutes of this movie consist of scenes of violence so gratuitous and ghastly that they’r enough to scare away all but the most determined of viewers. This is especially questionable considering that the trailer presented this as a badass action movie. Like 300 meets 7 Samurai. And while action movies do tend to be violent, it’s usually a more stylized kind of violence. There’s a big difference between watching some henchman get his head cut off and watching some woman getting all her limbs cut off and then forced into sex slavery.
The first scene consists of a man disemboweling himself with a samurai sword. Well, you know, sometimes a shocking scene like that can be a good way to jump-start a movie. You know, grab the audience’s attention, make them sit up in their seats. Once you’ve grabbed their interest, you can move on to–
Oh. A woman getting raped. And then her husband comes in to comfort her and this evil dude stabs her and she’s sitting there cradling the body of her dead lover after begin raped and the evil dude just walks away. Oh, and because it’s feudal Japan and there’s honor and all that shit, the raped woman then has to commit suicide.
Well, dang. That was pretty horrible. I guess it was necessary, because the whole movie revolves around 13 dudes trying to kill a bad guy. For a movie like that to work, the audience ids to be told that the bad guy really is bad, and this scene sure accomplished that. Now maybe we can move ahead to–
Oh, now we get to see another woman that this guy raped. Except he also cut off her arms and legs and pulled out her tongue and killed her father and a bunch of other innocent villagers.
For the lulz, I assume.
Seriously, movie, what the ****? We get it, already. The bad guy is bad. Like, Adolf Hitler crossed with Darth Vader bad. He needs to be killed. We understand. Now, can we please move on to the plot? Maybe get a bit more about who our heroes are supposed to be?
Not quite yet. The next scene involves the bad guy practicing his mad archery skills. Except the targets he’s using happen to be little kids. Of course. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next scene he ate a live baby while making its parents watch.
He’s like this, except not as friendly.
So, for a movie called 13 Assassins, there doesn’t seem to be all that much screen time spent on the actual 13 Assassins. We meet maybe one or two in between all the horrible torture scenes. Honestly, if you stop and think about it, you realize that this movie is sort of cheating. Instead of getting you invested in the main characters (which would mean scenes full of dialogue, which is hard to write) it just forces you to be invested by presenting you with a villain so over-the-top, so atrociously evil, that you just have to see him die. You don’t even care who kills him, so long as SOMEONE does it, be it 13 assassins or Boromir or freaking’ Batman. Trouble is, the movie gambles that you’re willing to sit through what starts to look like an hour of mindless atrocities just to get the satisfaction of seeing Evil McBadGuy bite it in the end.
Honestly, I can’t review this movie properly, not having seen most of it. This is not so much a review as a warning. Don’t go see this with squeamish friends (like I did. Otherwise, I would have stayed, despite it all). Don’t go in expecting a summer action romp, or even Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. This would be like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon if Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon opened with a montage of tigers and dragons eating little children. While their parents watched. And then eating the parents, too. From the legs up, to prolong the pain. Honestly, if you want to traumatize your audience, you should sort of do it AFTER they’re already into the story. Or at least after they even know what the story is.