Steve Tothill’s review:
I bloody love samurai movies. Or should that be I love bloody samurai movies? Angry honour filled masters of their art facing off against each other in the mud and rain. The flash of steel, a rolling head, and if I'm really lucky a fountain of red spraying into the camera.
It's a guilty pleasure, one that 13 Assassins' doesn't deny the viewer devoting virtually the entire second half to a swirling dance of death and destruction. With a genuinely evil villain at the centre, a very disturbed character and potentially the catalyst to war, it's easy to get behind the team tasked with stopping him. While their numbers seem so few when faced with an army, I'd argue that there are too many, without time to get to know each of them well enough to feel a great deal for the inevitable fallen. That said, I very much enjoyed the build up to the battle, the secret meetings at night as the group formed, samurai walking down grey streets lit by moonlight. The settings are consistently excellent and immersive, with some beautiful shots of the Japanese countryside - one of the benefits of the modern samurai movie, they do look pretty lush in places.
It's been almost 10 years since Zatoichi, it's good to see not all samurai have sold their swords during peace time and that there are still directors willing to seriously take on the genre.