Thursday, 9 September 2010

Venice 2010: Zebraman 2: Attack On Zebra City, 13 Assassins

Two from prolific Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike, one (ostensibly) for the kids and one for the adults, the first a slapdash, disposable sequel to his 2004 feature and the second a remake of Eichi Kudo's 1964 black-and-white film of the same name.

Zebraman 2: Attack On Zebra City is silly, sloppily made, with Hype Williams-esque video sequences, a ridiculously outfitted hero, masked police allowed to massacre innocent civilians with impunity, and a skyscraper-sized swishy CGI alien.

13 Assassins on the other hand is, by Miike's own standards, startlingly restrained, even though it features a near hour-long climactic siege with the eponymous assassins taking on 200-plus of their fellow samurai in a fortified village.

Set in 1844 in Feudal Japan, a time of relative peace, Miike's period epic stars Koji Yakusho as esteemed samurai Shinzaemon Shimade who is tasked to assassinate Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki), son of the former Shogun and brother to the existing one, a vile and sadistic nobleman, and sets out to amass a series of like-minded samurai to help him.

Slow and stately to begin with, paying particular attention to the codes and rituals of the samurai, the pace picks up once the dirty, er, thirteen have been recruited, with Miike expertly mining Kurosawa's Seven Samurai for inspiration, and the film culminating in a staggering battle of steel and wits. Clearly produced on a bigger budget than he's used to, Miike wisely keeps it as real as possible, eschewing CGI blood and copious visual effects in favour of breathtaking swordplay and skilled stuntwork. A treat.

13 Assassins plays at the London Film Festival on October 23 and 24.

No comments: