13 Assassins (15)

Starring: Kôji Yakusho
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The Independent Culture

Takashi Miike's historical drama surely breaks records for staging the longest ever fight sequence – roughly the whole second half of the movie.

Set in rural Japan, 1844, it concerns the rise to power of psychopathic killer Lord Naritsugu, who thinks nothing of using his enemy's family for archery practice. Hired by a top Shogun to assassinate the brute, ageing warrior Shinzaemon (Kôji Yakusho) recruits a posse of fellow samurai to assist him, even though their 13-man elite must ambush a 200-strong army. Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is an obvious reference point, and Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch even more so (a wonderful set-piece involves a bridge blast, and the 13's gallant stand echoes the bunch's against the Mexican army). Miike directs the "village of death" battle with an astonishing relentlessness: just when you think you've seen the last bout of flesh-skewering, he tips another bloody bucket of slaughter into the mix.