Golgo 13 Review

Please note that whilst Optimum Releasing have given this disc the title 'Golgo 13', it is not the 1973 version which starred Ken Takakura in the lead role and had Sonny Chiba relegated to a supporting role, but the 1977 film better known as 'Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment'.

Taken from the pages of Takao Saito’s manga, Golgo 13 takes us back to a seventies world of shirt sleeves and sideburns. As we scoot between Hong Kong, Japan and a stock footage Miami, Sonny Chiba – as the eponymous hitman – sets about taking down Hong Kong’s number one drug dealer. Of course, it takes all manner of gunfights, chases and bouts of kung fu in order to reach this point and as such there’s no doubt that he is the film’s hero. Despite the presence of a good guy cop and some Michael Mann-style twinning of him and Chiba’s amoral, cold blooded killer, it is the latter who’s afforded the James Bond status. Something of a ladies’ man, he looks equally at home chugging on a cigar in some hideous nightclub as he does donning the scuba gear or ascending a cliff face.

Sadly Golgo 13 the film can’t quite match the slickness of Golgo 13 the man. Either the English subtitling is hopeless (which I doubt) or it faithfully recreates the clunking dialogue (the exposition as to Golgo’s identity: “He’s a perfect professional hitman who never misses his target”). Plot developments are heavily signposted (not that they would be especially surprising has director Yukio Noda been a little more subtle). And there’s no depth to the piece whatsoever; it is, of course, a pure fantasy in which the death of one man will rid Hong Kong of illegal narcotics for eternity.

And yet for all its ineptitudes, Golgo 13 does have a terrific energy. The location work may have been propelled by touristic impulses, but it also – retrospectively – creates a great sense of place. Moreover, there’s a gleeful edge to the ultra-violence (from a 15 rated perspective, that is) which works especially well in conjunction with the abundance of whip pans, crash zooms and a funky as theme tune. Indeed, such elements allow the film to rattle along at such a sharp pace, we simply forget (or choose to bypass) its more fundamental flaws. Of course, it doesn’t make any great claims to being anything other than a spry piece of entertainment and as such never really achieves much. But as a simple romp it passes the time nicely.

The Disc

Golgo 13 comes to the DVD UK market looking fairly impressive. The crispness of the image isn’t always consistent, but otherwise we get an anamorphic transfer of a clean print and the film in uncut form. As for the soundtrack, we are offered the original Japanese mono (spread over the front two channels) with optional English subtitles. Being a mid-seventies Asian genre movie the quality is by no means a perfect sound mix, but then it’s free from dirt and as good as should be expected. Sadly, the extras prove to be a big disappointment. We get only a rudimentary collection of trailers, poster gallery and three-page Sonny Chiba bio, all of which can be found on the rest of Optimum’s Chiba titles.

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Last updated: 28/04/2018 13:56:40

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