13 Assassins (2010) - Miike
Takashi Miike does a restrained, classical samurai flick. The result? Pretty badass!
It's the tail end of Shogun era, and its prolonged peacetime made samurai class soft and almost obsolete. Lord Doi, a senior consultant to Shogun, is worried about sadistic Noritsugu, who's next in line to reign. He's too crazy and evil to be in charge. He will bring chaos to Japan. Miike gets done with the freak show early on (with Noritsugu's limbless plaything). Doi devises a plan and recruits a master swordsman samurai Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho) to assassinate Noritsugu. The team of a few good men is assembled (typical fill-in-the-blanks archetypes - stoic, young, one with the spear, samurai hating peasant, etc. Described as not the most strong nor the best, but the man who never gives up, Shinzaemon is a methodical man akin to a master go player.
The final battle in a small town against 200 men is quite spectacular. Good to see always stoic Yakusho exercising some mad glee in his expression. Also delcious is morbid Noritsugu's "Today is the most exciting day of my life" death scene. The ending should've been about 10 minutes shorter as Miike fumbles on how to end it gracefully. But all in all, 13 Assassins is a very entertaining, good old fashioned sword epic.