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13 Assassins (Artificial Eye) 
Written by: on August 31st, 2011

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2011
Director: Takashi Miike
Writers: Kaneo Ikegami, Daisuke Tengan
Cast: Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya , Mikijiro Hira , Hiroki Matsukata

DVD released: September 5th, 2011
Approximate running time: 120 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese, Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese
Subtitles: English
DVD Release: Artificial Eye
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99

Synopsis: 13 skilled swordsman join forces to take down a ruthless heir to the throne.

When discussing modern Japanese cinema the one name that instantly springs to mind is Takashi Miike. Whether it be his prolific output or how he effortlessly melds his own unique style no matter what genre he may be working in. There is no denying his impact on the last twenty of Japanese cinema and those outside of Japan have come to expect from Japanese cinema.
Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins was adapted from a screenplay that was written by Kaneo Ikegami, who’s other notable screenplay’s include Like a Shooting Star and Shadow Hunters. Kaneo Ikegami’s original screenplay for 13 Assassins was originally filmed and released in 1963. Narrative wise there is very little differences between Takashi Miike’s version and the 1963 version of The Thirteen Assassins. The screenplay for 13 Assassins was adapted by Daisuke Tengan, a filmmaker in his own right, who is most known for also writing the screenplay for Takashi Miike’s Audition.
The narrative for 13 Assassins can be broken down into two distinctly different sections. The opening half of the film’s is about character development as who everyone is and what their motivations are defined in stone. While the second half of the film is all about wall to wall action set pieces and bloodletting. Another area in which this film has two diversely different tones is its pacing, which is deliberately slower in the opening half, then the much brisker second half that just steam rolls along taking no prisoners.

Never one to shy away from showing grotesque imagery that often borders on the perverse. Once again Takashi Miike does not disappoint in this area, with some of this film’s more disturbing moments being a family being used as target practice by Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira a ruthless heir to the throne. Another unforgettable moment also revolves around Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira, who this time around hack’s off a woman’s arms and legs, after he kills her husband.
When discussing this film and how everything just seamlessly falls into place, one must not overall the superb performances from the entire cast, who are excel in their respective roles. And without a doubt this film most memorable performance comes from Gorô Inagaki (The Hypnotist) in the role of Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira.

Whether you are fan of the film’s of Takashi Miike or just a fan of Samurai films, there is plenty to enjoy in 13 Assassins, a film that finds a satisfying mix between these two universes.

The DVD:

Note: This review is based on a screener and may not be representative of the final product.

Artificial Eye presents 13 Assassins in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original ‘scope’ aspect ratio. Colors and flesh tones look accurate and black levels fare well. There are no problems with compression and edge enhancement is never to excessive. It should be noted that there are some very mild instance of ‘combing’ during more action oriented sequences.
This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in Japanese and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Japanese. Both audio mixes sounds clean, clear, balanced and robust when they need. Also they both do a superb job with the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles that are easy to follow and error free.

Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (1 minute 55 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles), deleted scenes (22 minutes 47 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles) and a interview with Takashi Miike (18 minutes 45 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles). This interview is a fairly routine one that covers the various aspects of this production, while the deleted scenes offer up some more character development. A few months back 13 Assassins was released by Magnolia Films in North America on DVD and Blu-Ray and content wise, this release from Artificial Eye is comparable to that aforementioned release.

Note: Artificial Eye are also releasing 13 Assasins on Blu-Ray.

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