Movies: 13 Assassins and Super
As its title suggests, 13 Assassins is a movie about murder and mayhem. Those opposed to gory action flicks would do well to avoid this remake of a 1963 film with the same name, which is unfortunate because it is a samurai movie that challenges convention. Men of honor, bound by honor and tradition, are forced to question revered codes. What does it mean to abandon the very structure of your life?
13 Assassins takes place in 19th century feudal Japan, where the sick and twisted Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (Gorô Inagaki) gleefully kills, rapes and maims his people without repercussions. His social status allows him to live outside the law, protected by the shogun and a powerful family. Director Takashi Miike doesn’t hold back; we are shown every atrocity in vivid detail. By the time samurai Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho) starts building his team of assassins to take down the villain, most viewers will be calling for his blood.
The violence is over the top; this is an extreme film in every sense of the word. The assassins have the odds stacked against them, which means there are a lot of extras to be killed. But 13 Assassins has intelligence in addition to awesome fighting scenes. This isn’t death and destruction for its own sake; it’s about doing what is right and necessary even if that means breaking societal rules.
13 Assassins, available on DVD, is rated R for sequences of bloody violence, some disturbing images and brief nudity. Running time: 141 minutes.
The popularity of superhero movies over the past three decades has opened the floodgates for almost every conceivable comic book title — from Marvel heavy hitters like The Avengers to independents like Oni Press’s Scott Pilgrim — to become a motion picture. A subgenre of regular-Joe vigilante superhero movies have started cropping up in the wake of these successful adaptations. Super, like its predecessors Watchmen and Kick-Ass, is the story of average people putting on costumes and fighting crime. However, Super subverts expectation at every turn. Director and writer James Gunn plays with what audiences are likely to anticipate, using standard superhero movie tropes and then sharply twisting them. The resulting film is often shocking in the way violence is depicted as well as the paths the plot wanders down.
After his beautiful, recovering addict wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a drug dealer (Kevin Bacon), short-order cook Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) decides to become Crimson Bolt, a superhero who attacks criminals with a pipe wrench. The situation quickly spirals out of control, especially once Wilson’s extremely overzealous sidekick Boltie (Ellen Page) enters the picture.
Super has its flaws, but it’s a striking film. Life is messy and people — even important people — are lost along the way. These characters are not protected from harm. Not everyone makes it out OK, and those who do survive aren’t necessarily living a happy ending.
Super, available on DVD, is rated R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, sexual content and drug use. Running time: 96 minutes.