Bigger budgets don't make better moviesTakashi Miike, the director of 13 Assassins, once said in an interview that he sometimes watches big budget movies thinking "With that budget, why didn't they make more crazy things?". He also said that he likes working on low budget movies because they allow for more creative freedom. It turns out that 13 Assassins fulfills his concerns. Compared with many of his lower budget movies, it is a very conventional if not mediocre film. The only thing miikesque about 13 Assassins is the depiction of the sadistic Lord Matsudaira's cruelties, which isn't a redeeming factor.
As for the story, said Lord cannot be stopped by political means, hence a group of Samurai is tasked with his assassination. Which isn't an easy job since he is protected by an army that outnumbers the assassins by far. So the plot deals with a situation which became classic since Kurosawa's 7 Samurai, but in fact it's a remake of a movie named - well - "13 Assassins", from 1963.
The fact that the movie is a remake begs the question why it was even made. It is not original, there are no twists, let alone is there any of the goofiness that characterizes much of Miike's work. Perhaps Miike wanted to show that he can do big battle scenes. Well yes, he obviously can. But while the battle scenes are the most outstanding feature of 13 Assassins, the fighting left me strangely unaffected. The key question was how the small group will defeat the army, but the way the battle is unrolled isn't clever or elegant, it relies too much on technically improbable traps and incompetent opponents. Now there's a point where a lower budget could have helped: With a lower budget, the movie might have concentrated less on sets and spectacle and more on how the Samurai outsmart the army.
I don't understand why 13 Assassins gets so many enthusiastic reviews. But I hope it grossed a lot of money that gets invested into more original movies.
Rating: 5 out of 10 severed limbs.