Plot: Based on the board game Candyland, this concerns the titular assassins trying to carry out a plot to kill Lord Licorice. The evil lord of the Candyland domain gathers Plumpy, Mr. Mint, King Kandy, Jolly, Queen Frostine, Gloppy the Chocolate Monster, Gramma Nutt, and about two-hundred other warriors to try to stop them. Lots of gingerbread men get sliced.
I'd almost like to see a four-hour director's cut of this or something. The size matters when you're talking about samurai, I guess. You can really take it in three separate chunks--the assembling of the thirteen, a romp through the forest to get to Lord Licorice et al., and a 45-minute slicin' and dicin' marathon which ends with a body count that is about as high as you're likely to see in a film. That third section is about perfect. There's the calm before the storm with this ominous haze, the fortified nowhere town that looks like a crazy version of a Mouse Trap, a child urinating. If it wasn't for the goofy CGI flaming bulls, that part of the movie would have been perfect. You've got the samurai bloodbath pornography if you're into that sort of thing and enough continued character development and emotional depth to make it not completely meaningless. Those first two parts? Well, there's an attempt at character development with the first third, but it really didn't do much for me since I couldn't distinguish the characters from one another anyway. There are also some training scenes that I liked and could have used more of. The second third is nifty, working almost like a buddy-buddy-buddy-buddy-buddy-buddy-buddy-buddy-buddy-buddy-buddy-buddy movie, and they pick up the thirteenth "assassin" who winds up being the most intriguing character. But you know that this is just a prelude to the aforementioned samurai bloodbath pornography, and that's the real reason why you popped this in anyway. You wanted some Takashi Miike mayhem--necks sliced through, limbs flopping all over the place, folks disemboweled, nipples punctured. Other than a difficult-to-watch scene featuring a woman with no arms and legs, this is tame for Miike, and the violence is approached in a more human way, especially during a scene where a character kills for the first time. Miike's surprisingly (to me, at least) made himself an old school samurai picture. Well, the hari kari is awfully squelchy. And the bad guy, a dude who isn't really named Lord Licorice, is a little more ruthless than you'd normally expect. I loved that character, not just because he said cool things like "Does daddy monkey have hard bones, too?" (I wonder if that's poorly translated or actually what he said) but because of his reaction to the attack on his life. My favorite scene--the lead assassin makes a fish and hook analogy to describe how they were trapping the army of seventy. When the army turns out to be two hundred, he says, "The bigger the fish the better," and this one guy's reaction is like "Dude, that analogy just ain't working for me anymore." Anyway, good samurai flick.