The new Takashi Miike movie is in town.

If that sentence doesn’t have you grabbing your keys and some Raisinets money, well, you’re probably not a film geek. But I’ll still try to convince you to head to Space Gallery tonight to check out the Japanese cult director’s latest, the over-the-top samurai epic “13 Assassins.”

A quick primer on Miike: An absurdly prolific director, with more than 80 films to his credit (since 1991!), he’s perhaps best-known for the legendarily horrifying “Audition,” a mainstay in any “scariest movie of all time” argument; the shocking yakuza ultra-violence of “Ichi the Killer”; the pitch-black satire of family sexual mores “Visitor Q” (my pick for the “wrongest” film in his oeuvre, which is a compliment); the constantly-topping-itself “Dead or Alive” crime trilogy; or even the utterly bananas musical “The Happiness of the Katakuris.”

Boundary-shattering sex and violence coupled with a sly sense of humor and consummate filmmaking chops — that’s Takashi Miike.

“13 Assassins” is Miike’s foray into the venerable samurai genre, with an aging samurai (Koji Yakusho of “The Eel” and “Shall We Dance?”) gathering the titular warriors in order to take out the evil lord (Goro Inagaki), whose Caligula-level depredations threaten to undermine the peace that’s held for so long.

The setup obviously recalls “The Seven Samurai,” with the gathering of a hopelessly outnumbered band of swordsmen for what seems like a suicide mission (complete with a final showdown in a tiny, booby-trapped village). For the film’s first hour, it’s surprisingly traditional, even (by Miike’s standards) a little poky.

Plus, with almost twice the number of warriors being introduced in two-thirds the running time of “The Seven Samurai,” most characters (excepting Yakusho’s dignified leader and Inagaki’s cartoonishly supervillainous lord) get lost in the shuffle of samurai robes.

But when the film’s final battle scene comes, “13 Assassins” really kicks in, delivering an unbroken, 40-minute orgy of samurai swordplay. The tiny band takes on the lord’s entire 200-strong army, their peerless (and energetically choreographed) bladesmanship backed with an escalating series of elaborate, if increasingly improbable, traps that bring the vivid colors of fire and blood to the film’s heretofore resolutely earth-toned palette.

Sure, the finale’s virtuoso set piece occasionally recalled “Home Alone” (one truly regrettable CGI surprise is a mistake), and perhaps “13 Assassins” doesn’t scale the heights either of Akira Kurosawa’s admittedly unreachable standard or of Miike’s own more daring works. But it’s still a uniquely thrilling night out that no true Portland film fan should miss.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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