I’d recently watched Takashi Miike‘s adaptation of Blade of the Immortal, a film I enjoyed very much. A friend of mine, who is an even bigger fan of Miike’s work than I am said that this was his favorite Miike film since 13 Assassins, a film I’d heard about in passing. At about the same time I’d heard it was a remake of an earlier film… Which led to the perfect opportunity to do another Old vs New.

Wednesday Double Feature - Old vs New - 13 AssassinsEiichi Kudo’s 1963 film, !3 Assassins tells the story of a high ranking lord who’s decedent behavior has become so terrible that he’s considered a threat to the status quo and the code of bushido. What’s worse he’s the Shogun’s younger half-brother and is thus untouchable. In desperation, a group of officials assigns a team of assassins to go on a suicide mission to kill the Lord.

The film starts slow. The first hour consists of giving us all the reasons for why this assassination must take place and introducing us to the assassins. It is only the second hour where the pace picks up, and oh boy does it pick up, culminating in the lord and his entourage of Samurai are led into a carefully modified village that has been turned into a maze hampering the Lord’s superior numbers and giving the assassins a fighting chance.

And what a fight it is lasting virtually forty minutes and has you sitting on your hands all the way through.

All in all, this is a fantastic film that makes complete deconstruction of bushido, showing the extremes of what the samurai do in the name of drama. From the assassins quest to kill the evil lord to a noble retainer sticking to his principals by serving the evil lord.

Wednesday Double Feature - Old vs New - 13 AssassinsFor the first few minutes, Miike’s 2010 version seems like a shot for shot remake but it quickly builds from the original scenes in the original movie and expanding on them. A few things are changed for one thing the Assassins’ target is changed from a corrupt but weak rapist to a completed monster, who after the raping the man’s wife, killing him. Later we see him using a family for target practice, one wonders why the Shogun didn’t arrange a convenient accident way earlier.

Also, the film spends more time introducing us to the assassins, their plan and their race  to get to their destination before the Lord’s entourage does. It’s all very pretty benefiting greatly from a much far larger budget than the original film.

But at the same time I think this is a problem. The final fight suffers badly from rule of cool. Make no mistake, it is very cool but the original film made a big deal about the fight being a desperate game of cat and mouse where the heroes have to use every dirty trick in order to survive long enough to complete their mission. Everything is dependent on taking full advantage of getting the larger numbers getting stuck in alleyways. If one of the heroes get outnumbered they’re dead.

In Miike’s version they pretty much throw away this tiny advantage after ten minutes and jump down to fight the enemies superior numbers, where they have the uperhand. Sure, it’s still badass but it’s just not the same.