Hostage Pick Part Ones:13 Assassins; Awesomely Grasping at Shakespeare


     Good day all,

          Hello again from the bunker of broken dreams. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to speak to y’all; the power struggle that led to the creation of the Top 50 put us into a bit of a social pinwheel. As soon as she had to respect my opinions on the list it made her start to see me as a person, and that threw our whole relationship dynamic into a tailspin that pushed her to up and leave. Longtime friends of the site will know that, from time to time, the Iron Lady that controls my fate gets fed up and takes off for a bit, mercilessly darting your gentle narrator and leaving just enough food to make sure I’m still here to be tortured when she gets back. The point is I’m free! Free as a poor, sad fuck darted in a bunker can hope to be. Regardless, I have a theme for the viewing in Cruella’s absence; wait for it, drooling with anticipation aren’t you, movies that aren’t as good as most folks seem to think they are. This one is tame, because the action is pretty sweet when it gets going. But the second episode, much like The Godfather or The Naked Gun, is darker and more angry (it’s almost like the Zuckers knew that O.J. would someday kill his ex and fed that rage into the tone of the second film, Godfather Part 2 was pretty good too). The crosshairs of my scorn will fall on Super 8 in the next one, a film with a disturbing 82% RT rating, that I need to watch again to see if I’m missing something before telling y’all about what a horrendous piece of shit it is. I digress, 13 Assassins.

     Before I jump in to this lovely distraction I must provide a disclaimer: I love kung-fu, samurai and ninja movies like the desert loves the rain. I have watched the shittiest movies, with the shittiest stories, with the shittiest dubbing, just to see a mofo get his head crushed (looking at you Ricky-Ho). I get that these flicks are not supposed to be great cinema, but it bothers me when they lose the essence of the genre. The best example I can give is The Curse of the Golden Flower, in that it is one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen that tried so hard to be high drama that it forgot to be a fung-fu flick (compare Jet-Li’s Hero, a film both visually stunning and true to the genre). The key point is that I do not think this is a bad movie, I just think it’s trying way to hard to be Throne of Blood (I seen me some Kurosawa bitches). RT has this film at a 95 and Metacritic at 87, I’m simply suggesting somewhere around an 80; great, but not cock-pucnhing you blue with awesomeness.

     I guess the point I have to start at is that I love a slow build. I think it was Truffaut that once said “yes, yes. I like how the young man’s chest catches the light.” That has nothing to do with slow builds, and Truffaut never said what I quoted him as saying but, admit it, it makes whatever I say next sound more impressive. What I’m trying to get at is that the director does a great job of setting up the politics behind the impending clash, but the build is a little too slow. The violence is sparse in the early bits, but done very well. Swords actually cut, one dude can’t kill sixty enemies and surviving a battle is complex; but I can’t get past the tone of the movie and whether it’s trying to be a period piece or a Samurai flick. It just feels like a mash-up of existing films.

     The group of “heroes” emerge and we get the quest. We witness the foibles of overcoming their internal dynamics and then they’re faced with defending the keep against insurmountable odds (p.s. how awesome to consider a world where 200 troops is a huge force). The superiority of the heroes is clearly established as they pin their enemy down and then . . . . they jump down and finish the job with swords instead of killing everyone with arrows (they actually toss down their bows to make a point). If it’s a period drama this no maka da sense, and if it’s a samurai flick it’s awesome; I suppose the word I’m looking for is uneven. The pendulum swings between “this is how it was” and “wouldn’t it be awesome if it was like this” a little too freely. The reality they set up early is sacrificed for drama later.

     I guess what I’m getting at is that this is a great movie, I just don’t know if it lives up to the hype as the second coming.I see a lot of movies that I love nodded to without a clear voice of it’s own. Parts Seven Samurai, Kill Bill Vol. 1 andCrouching Tiger meshed together that never really starts it’s own path. Worth a watch none-the-less, and at least trying to switch up the genre.

     I’ll leave it there, but pass on fair warning; the theme will not be as kind for another flick with a solid rep., namely Super 8. Talk about a mash-up of better flicks. We’ll wait for that bridge to come along before we jump off of it, but until then ponder this: is it better to be what you are, or to be a pale shadow of what you hope to be?

        With fondest regards,

             the hostage


~ by stew37 on May 19, 2012.

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