JapaneseKen Takakura
Golgo 13
Medium: film
Year: 1973
Director: Jun'ya Sato
Writer: Takao Sait, K. Motomitsu
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Ken Takakura, Mohsen Sohrabi, Jaleh Sam, Pouri Baneai, Tahere Ghaffari, Ahmad Ghadakchian, Jalal Pishvaian, Nosratollah Karimi, Arash Taj, Reza Azargun, Yadolla Shirandami, Siamak Atlassi, Dariush Asadzade, Gorgi, Ali Dehghan, Mohammad Noroozi, Bahram, Hassan Rezai, Abbas Mokhtari, Ezzatollah Ramazanifar
Format: 104 minutes
Url: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0174699
Website category: Japanese old
Review date: 27 June 2022
Golgo 13 is one of manga's most iconic characters and a professional assassin. His creator, Takao Saito, entered the manga industry in 1963 with an adaptation of Ian Fleming's James Bond stories and originally created Golgo 13 as a way of telling more stories in that vein while avoiding copyright issues.
It's not hard to see the similarities with 007. Golgo 13 is a globe-trotting sniper who has sex with lots of ladies before always, unfailingly killing his target. The plots of their adventures are fairly similar. This film's villain even has a pet parrot, like an avian copy-paste of Ernst Stavro Blofeld's cat. The two anti-heroes, though, are completely different. Bond, especially in the movies, is charming. Golgo 13 is a cold, cold bastard who doesn't care about his client, his target or the reasons behind the hit. Pay him half a million dollars and don't double-cross him (important) and the kill will happen. He's not without cool and he has his own kind of professional pride, but he doesn't show emotion and don't expect him to save your life just because he slept with you.
"I heard Golgo 13 wouldn't shoot an unarmed man," says a baddie here at one point, as a stalling tactic. I laughed and laughed. Golgo 13 would shoot women, children and indeed pets. That said, frankly, he's also a one-dimensional protagonist. I'm not planning to catch up on the Golgo 13 anime or manga... but this live-action film was quite good. (Toho made a sequel, Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon, in 1977, that's apparently slightly weaker.)
It was filmed almost entirely in pre-revolutionary Iran, with everyone except Golgo 13 himself (Ken Takakura) being Persian and dubbed into Japanese in post-production. This was quite expensive for Toho Studios, but it's still far below a James Bond budget and the film looks far less glossy than that franchise. This is a good thing. It's cheaper and grittier. It looks real. You feel as you're actually in Iran, instead of just being shown a glamorous backdrop. It's also obviously of its decade, with the 1970s-ness coming through loud and clear.
One quirk, though, is that characters' names tend to be European rather than Middle Eastern. For a Japanese audience, "Simon" and "Douglas" would be exotic.
I also like Golgo 13's gun. Some heroes run out of bullets. That's not going to happen with our hero's cannon. He's a sniper, so he goes around with a dirty great Colt M16A2 that could shoot down a helicopter.
Apart from that, the film's what you're imagining. It's not glamorous. The baddies are just gangsters with 1970s moustaches. It is, though, a pretty good hitman film, with Golgo 13's exploits easily holding your attention for 104 minutes of killing, torture and desert car chases. (No nudity, though, although there is some belly dancing.) It's quite fun to follow such a complete bastard, because you know he'd have no qualms about killing anyone at the drop of a hat. Besides, his targets are even worse.