Few filmmakers juxtapose cruelty and beauty as audaciously as Japan's Takashi Miike. A master director with great style and panache, Miike's latest, "13 Assassins," is a classic samurai movie, right up there among the finest in the genre. A remake of a black-and-white 1963 picture of the same name, "13 Assassins" is a heartfelt homage to the form at a time when Japanese feudal period films are an increasing rarity.
The time is 1844, just 23 years before the shogunate — the military dictatorship that ruled Japan for centuries — would crumble and the imperial throne would be restored to power. The current shogun has legitimized his half-brother, Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (Goro Inagaki), a sadist so crazed he can no longer be ignored by the shogun's minister of justice, who is also a great samurai, Shinzaemon Shimada (veteran star Koji Yakusho).