In the Edo period of Japanese history, the samurai lived as powerful servants to the even more powerful shogunate. While the samurai may have been the ultimate warriors on the highly guarded and closed off islands that made up Japan in those days, their code required absolute devotion to their lords. So strong was this devotion that it was unthinkable to not follow the lord’s demands. Along comes Lord Naritsugu, who is both a high-level shogun lord and a complete psychopath. Everywhere he went he raped, tortured and killed at will, often the victim’s were completely innocent families, often using the noble samurai to finish the job. Naritsugu’s main samurai, Hanbei, is a seasoned veteran who was a top pupil back in the day, second only to an ultimate bad ass of a samurai, Shinzaemon.
Unlucky for Hanbei, Shinzaemon has just found out what Naritsugu’s been up to and that Naritsugu is about to take over has top shogun. Well, ole Shinzaemon can’t let that go down. Problem is, he can’t find anyone to join him in his quest to take out Naritsugu, as most samurai wouldn’t even think of touching a hair on a shogun lord’s head. So, all Sinzaemon can do is round up a group of samurai rejects and iconoclasts and try to take down Naritsugu. So, the ragtag group of 13 takes on Hanbei and his army of samurai to stand up for what’s right and bring down the hand of justice.
This movie is freaking awesome. I tend to either not much care for Takashi Miike’s movies at all or love them. This one definitely falls into the latter category. The movie is a tale about the dangers of absolute, unthinking devotion to authority. The style is that of a classic samurai period piece and, as such, mimics the great westerns of the golden age. Change the background to the frontier of the western U.S. in the 19th century and switch out the main actor with Clint Eastwood and you would have a western classic on your hands. The white hats and black hats are similar in substantial ways and diametrically opposed at the same time. They’re also both heavy hands who ultimately must have a final showdown to decide the fate of the town. It’s classic stuff, high noon samurai style, and it’s awesome.