Harley Lond - wrote on 02/20/12
Legendary cult director Takashi Miike ("Ichi the Killer," "Audition") delivers a bravado action film set at the end of Japan's feudal era in which a group of samurai are enlisted to bring down a sadistic, murderous lord to prevent him from ascending to the throne and plunging the country into a war-torn future. The 13 assassins track the lord down and lure him into a small town that they have transformed into a city of death, there to battle his 200-man string army in one of the longest -- and most elaborate -- battles ever committed to celluloid. Miike -- generally known for gore and extreme violence -- here tones things down in a mainstream, old-fashioned samurai film that would make Akira Kurosawa proud. Yes, there is bloodshed (particularly at the beginning, when Miike sets up the personna of the evil lord who has no qualms about beheading his servants just for the heck of it), but most of the film deals with samurai ritual, strategy and logistics -- until the aforementioned fabulous battle scene that lasts well over an hour and ends the film. And even then the bloodshed is not overwhelming. A beaut of a production.