Opening with a grim and bloody Hara Kiri protest suicide that sets the tone for the rest of the outing. It's a masterpiece that's as gripping as it is brutal.
First off we meet the sadistic and psychopathic Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki), an accomplished rapist, murderer and mutilator of his subjects.
(The scene where a limbless and tongueless peasant tries to explain what happened to her clan using a paintbrush is a particularly gruesome highlight).
Appalled by the Lord's actions, his chief advisor seeks the help of Samurai Master Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho) to recruit a team for his assassination, a mission likely to end in their deaths.
Shinzaemon pieces together his team to take down the evil Lord...only for them to get lost in a forest where - fortuitously - they find their unlikely thirteenth assassin.
He's not a samurai but more of a jackass who's handy with throwing rocks, a surprisingly efficient way to take down the apparently invulnerable ancient warriors.
The grand finale features nigh-on 45 minutes of fabulously directed and choreographed Samurai brilliance with the dirty baker's dozen facing off with Lord Naritsugu's 200-strong army.
The action is intense, inventive and vastly compelling with enough twists and turns to keep the attention throughout.
Director Miike - he of the notorious Japanese horror Audition - does well in conveying themes of friendship, honour, love and loyalty without being too gushy.
The plot is gripping and well delivered if a bit drawn out at some points and although there’s a bit of a lull in the middle, the extraordinary climax easily makes up for it making this sword-swinging epic well worth your money.