91 mins approx.
Violent anime thriller
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Golgo 13: The Professional (1983)
18th Mar 07
When his son is killed in cold blood by a ruthless assassin, a wealthy business man spares no expense to get revenge.
Review Golgo 13: The Professional is a quite stunning piece of anime from the early 80s which tells the story of an incredibly tough international assassin, known as Golgo 13. He’s kind of like a Japanese version of the George Lazenby version of Bond, albeit without the witty one liners, and he seems to take any job on, no matter how tough. The film opens with a party on a huge cruise liner where wealthy oil-business baron Leonard Dawson is about to hand over the reigns of his vast empire to his young and talented son Robert, but as Robert steps forward, from the arms of his beautiful fiancée to shake his father’s hand, a single high velocity bullet hits his temple and it’s all over. A thousand yards away an emotionless Golgo 13 dismantles his sniper rifle, gets in his car and drives away into the night.
But Leonard Dawson is not the kind of man to let this thing go. Money becomes no object as Dawson splashes cash, intent on having Golgo 13 killed, and soon he’s being chased by the police, CIA, FBI, army, navy, air force and special ops, not to mention the best handful of deranged psychopaths money can buy. But Golgo 13, being hard as nails, just carries on his business, finding the added interest in his activities more irritating than anything.
And so proceeds a collection of wonderfully executed set pieces of outrageous wanton violence as Golgo 13 takes job after job, but each job gets trickier and trickier, and the getaways become increasingly more violent until enough is enough, and it becomes time for Golgo 13 to take his fate into his own hands and put an end to this once and for all.
Now before we go any further, let’s get a few things straight about Golgo 13: The Professional. Firstly, it’s old, this animated version was made in the early 80s but Sonny chiba of Street Fighter and Kill Bill fame starred in a live action version of the early 70s, and so when I tell you the film has a strong 60s film noir gangster feel to it, I’m sure that’ll come as no surprise (think a more violent version of Japanese pop-gangster classic Branded to Kill). But the movie’s comic book origin is quite obvious too with the camerawork and editing mimicking comic book panelling very stylishly, and there are often shifts from pencil sketch freeze frame to slow motion and split screen before moving back to speed –line enhanced fast cutting, especially in the many action sequences. The music too is noir moody, the kind of bluesy backing track that became synonymous with the Hong Kong triad movie of the late 80s. And there’s also a lot of blood, obscene amounts actually, and it tends to spray; think an amine James Bond with Shogun Assassin style blood sprays and you’d be right on the money. Plus there’s plenty of weaponry, a few cool driving sequences and a huge amount of nudity, which seems to complete the package somewhat.
But is Golgo 13: The Professional any good, is it actually worth your time? Well, the answer is quite clearly yes. For something about such an unlikeable lead, it’s amazing how much you want him to win. He’s a bastard for sure, but there’s a certain honest simplicity about Golgo 13: The Professional which is very appealing, and it especially appeals to the many ladies in this film. Why is it that Golgo 13: The Professional has full frontal nude manga sex with every female character in the movie? It’s not for his conversation, that’s for sure. And why, when a good man’s son has been murdered in cold blood, do we want Golgo 13 to get away with it and evade all his would be killers? Is it perhaps that the killers sent after Golgo 13 are so vial, so disgusting in their methods, that we’re picking the lesser of two evils? I mean, ‘Snake’ may well be one of the creepiest bad guys ever drawn, but the back story behind ‘Gold’ and ‘Silver’ (told through a wicked anime jungle warfare flashback) is truly chilling.
Who knows, either way Golgo 13: The Professional is a special manga that I’m very, very pleased has finally got that coveted DVD release that it richly deserves. It’s a wonderful example of early, artistically lead, pre-CGI manga (although it does contain a ridiculously early and somewhat questionable CG helicopter sequence that has divided fans somewhat) that pushes what you could get away with in terms of content because it is only a cartoon after all. But a hard hitting and very enthralling piece of animation this is too, with the emotionlessness of some juxtaposing the whole heartedness of others in a tale of complex human behaviour and sacrifice. There are also a good few plot twists too and, even after the final denouement, you’re still not entirely sure the ending was the one you were hoping for. If you like this kind of stuff, I can’t recommend it enough.