An hour long action scene. Not even joking.
Takeshi Miike is one of those directors to make any film-maker with claims to the controversial look tame. Both thematically and literally, the guy has seemingly gone out of his way to do what others won't simply for the hell of it, and sometimes that leads to some starkly original if crazy as fuck movies, and sometimes it leads to some terrible, nigh on unwatchable movies which continue to be crazy as fuck. But 13 Assassins felt like a much more accessible version of Miike, one with still many of his traits, but toned down enough to be a studio movie. This is Miike's version of The Seven Samurai, a pretty direct action movie about Samurai's chopping the shit out of each other with badass sword moves. The masochistic violence is still there, to be sure, but I think Miike has made a fervent effort to make the least fucked up movie he can here.
The thing I have liked about certain Miike films in the past is for any faults you can accuse him off, Miike always makes films with something to say, and even in 13 assassins, a film that ends in what is essentially an hour long action sequence. Does take a few jabs at the state of feudal Japan and the old samurai system. The film is also perhaps a little too in awe of it at the same time, almost glorifying the honour code in between making light of its fallacy. Performance wise, the film spreads itself a little too thin with so many characters, but I thought Goro Inagaki played a nicely considered villain in a role so evil it could have potentially been pantomime, and Koji Yakusho made for a solid and engaging lead, and of the many expendable samurai, my favorite would probably be Hiroyama, played nicely by Tsuyoshi Ihara, simply because he killed people in a more badass way then anyone else, and in this kind of thing the people who shut up and just get on with it are always the most awesome.
Is it a slender movie? Yes. The whole thing feels like an extended excuse for a massive battle scene, just as Seven Samurai did, and yes Miike is only intermittently engaged with any of his characters, but it does exactly what it says on the tin, which is to be a samurai movie where everyone gets destroyed by samurai swords. A mostly fun, engaging action movie, something it is so well you kind of don't mind how ridiculous it all is.