starring Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya, Ikki Sawamura
screenplay by Daisuke Tengan
directed by Takashi Miike
by Walter Chaw 13 Assassins, Takashi Miike's costume-period retro-cross-cultural updating of Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (and more horizontal homage to obvious antecedents by countrymen Kurosawa, Kobayashi, and Chushingura), initially seems a surprise choice for someone who's made his name (80+ times in the last twenty years) with transgressive, flamboyantly outré Yakuza and horror pictures. But Miike hinted at this exact marriage of a specific Spaghetti Western tradition and the Samurai flicks that were its inspiration with his arch Sukiyaki Western Django--choosing this time around to present the material "straighter," allowing his cast the language and trappings of late-Feudal Japan. The result is possibly the best Samurai movie since Yoji Yamada's Twilight Samurai (and its unofficial sequel, Hidden Blade), a picture meticulous in its details that is nonetheless only possible to fully appreciate within a working conversation with the traditions (including those of Miike's own work) that inform it. It's like a Coen Brothers film in that respect: very much the post-modern artifact, very much the solipsistic auto-critical exercise in genre, but also so technically brilliant and thematically rich that it's possible to enjoy it without much of that prior knowledge.