13 Assassins (Blu-ray) (2010)

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Released 11-Jan-2012

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Deleted Scenes
Interviews-Crew-Director Takashi Miike
Gallery-Photo
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Wu Xing Collection x 6
More…-DTS-HD MA Audio Check
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 125:10 (Case: 124)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Takashi Miike
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Kôji Yakusho
Takayuki Yamada
Yûsuke Iseya
Gorô Inagaki
Masachika Ichimura
Mikijiro Hira
Hiroki Matsukata
Ikki Sawamura
Arata Furuta
Tsuyoshi Ihara
Masataka Kubota
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $34.95 Music Kôji Endô


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese DTS HD High Resolution Audio 5.1
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

“Being a samurai is really a burden”

     Japan 1844, the last few decades of the Shogun’s rule and near the end of the era of the samurai. The Shogun’s half-brother and heir of the Akashi clan Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki) is a brutal, dissolute man, abusing his high position by murdering and raping at will. Sir Doi (Mikijiro Hira), head of the Shogun’s Council, realises that Lord Naritsugu’s actions will ruin the Shogunate, but is bound by honour and duty not to publically oppose any of the Shogun’s family. So instead he turns to aging samurai Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho), and requests him to assassinate Naritsugu during his annual travels from Edo to the Akashi lands. Shinzaemon gathers together a team of samurai, including his pupil Hirayama (Tsuyoshi Ihara) and his nephew Shinrouko (Takayuki Yamada) and starts planning.

     Their activity comes to the attention of Naritsugu and his chief samurai Hanbei (Masachika Ichimura). A man who had trained in the same dojo as Shinzaemon, Hanbei is disgusted by Naritsugu’s violent excesses, but feels obliged by his samurai code to protect his lord’s life at all costs. As Naritsugu leaves Edo, Shinzaemon and his team fortify the village of Ochiai, turning it into a deadly trap. But when Naritsugu and Hanbei arrive with over 200 men, the odds are very much against the small band of 13 assassins who are determined to take Naritsugu’s life.

     13 Assassins is a fairly traditional samurai tale of duty, loyalty, honour and striving against monumental odds. It takes its time to get going but even then it is not really able to give individuality to each of the 13 assassins. Other than the men already mentioned, older samurai Kuranaga (Hiroki Matsukata) and the wild mountain man they pick up on the way Koyata (Yusuke Iseya) are the most noticeable, but each warrior is at least individual enough to make their death in battle moving. Indeed, once the final battle at Ochiai commences we get over 45 minutes of intense action: explosions, fire, arrows, mayhem and carnage as the assassins carve, hack and spear into Naritsugu’s bodyguards. This is a huge set piece battle sequence that is well staged and quite diverse in its moves; it is not pretty, but bloody, energetic and loud, only slightly spoiled by the occasional use of obvious CGI effects, such as the very fake looking blazing cattle (79:04). The village set in which the climax is staged is massive, and most of it is utilised but, to the credit of director Takashi Miike, we are mostly aware of what is going on and where the heroes are. There are also still enough pauses in the mayhem to allow the audience to take stock and a breath, before the carnage starts again. The conclusion is both satisfying and poignant, a nice summation of the values of the samurai era and what had gone before.

     13 Assassins is an exquisite samurai tale of duty, loyalty, honour and striving against monumental odds that climaxes with one of the most spectacular and bloody 45 minute battles captured on film. Absolutely breathtaking.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     13 Assassins is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, in 1080p.

     The Blu-ray looks as good as a modern film should. The print is sharp and incredibly detailed, with each hair, piece of dirt or blood finely delineated. Colours are sombre, with dark wood and browns predominating early, but even when the action moves outside the colours are still muted and natural. Skin tones are accurate, brightness and contract consistent. Blacks are excellent, shadow detail wonderful. I did not notice any artefacts or problems of any sort .

     Burnt in English subtitles are in a white font and are easy to read. I did not notice any spelling or grammatical errors.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a choice of Japanese DTS MA HD 5.1 or Dolby TrueHD 5.1. I listened to the DTS MA HD track in full and only sampled the Dolby TrueHD. The latter was recorded at a slightly lower level and did seem to lack some of the crispness and depth of the DTS.

     Dialogue was clear and centred and although the surrounds were not overused, they did give a nice enveloping feel with panning effects, such as arrows and galloping horses, ambience, fire effects and music. Weapons of all sorts clanged and thudded into bodies satisfactorily. The sub-woofer also was not overdone, but added effective bass to explosions and especially horses’ hooves.

     Lip synchronisation was fine throughout.

     The score by Koji Endo was effective in that it was not overdone. It did not call attention to itself but supported the visuals when needed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Trailers for The Sorcerer and the White Snake (1:35) and My Kingdom (1:38) play on inserting the disc. They cannot be selected from the menu.

Deleted Scenes

     22 deleted scenes (in total 23:44) play without any link, information about where they fit into the film, or narration. Some are very short, seconds only, others are longer including one quite distasteful “humorous” sex scene.

Interview with Takashi Miike (18:56)

     The film’s director is interviewed by a gushing female interviewer. Miike speaks in Japanese (clear white subtitles) in one long take. Nothing about the production, a lot of superficial stuff about intentions but some interesting revelations - Miike maintains that 13 Assassins is “not an action film but a drama” and that it is a “family film”. He must have an interesting family.

Photo Gallery

     31 movie stills; silent, use the remote to advance.

Theatrical Trailer (2:22)

Wu Xing Collection Trailers

     Included are 14 Blades (2:43), The Lost Bladesman (1:04), Red Cliff (1:44), Bruce Lee: My Brother (2:39), Fireball (2:39) and Mulan (2:08).

DTS-HD MA Audio Check

     What it says.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The US Region A BD and UK Region B BD both have the director’s interview (although the UK release has a slightly different edit with the interviewer being seen at the start) and deleted scenes. Two Japanese Region A BDs are available; one a deluxe edition with a making of, director’s interview, deleted scenes and promotional events. Both these releases have the Japanese 141 minute cut of the film, as opposed to the shorter “International” version of the film that all the non-Japanese releases have. However, there are no subtitles on these Japanese releases so are of limited value to non-Japanese speakers.

     For English speakers, our Australian Region B BD is fine, and also includes an extra photo gallery.

Summary

     Set towards the end of the Shogunate era, 13 Assassins is an exquisite samurai tale about duty, loyalty, honour and striving against monumental odds that climaxes with one of the most spectacular and bloody 45 minute battles captured on film.

     The video and audio are very good, enhancing the viewing experience. Extras are not extensive, but worthwhile. Japanese speakers have the option of a longer cut of the film and more extras, including a commentary. However, for English speakers, our release is fine.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, January 09, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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