Ken Takakura Shoots and Scores: Golgo 13 (1973)

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“Name: Duke Togo Nickname Golgo 13
Nationality: Unknown
Place of Birth: Unknown

Date of Birth: Unknown
Occupation: Sniper”

Everything in that caption you see above you is all anyone knows about the character of Golgo 13. The name of Duke Togo is nothing more than an alias Golgo 13 gives out to others as the only identity to his person who still remains unknown to this day. It’s kind of like how Bruce Wayne is to Batman; Bruce Wayne is nothing more than an alias to others outside of being Batman, because Batman is his real identity. Before I can dive into the film, it is necessary to go into the backstory about the worlds greatest assassin.

Golgo 13 started by manga author Takao Saito back in 1968, and is considered to be one of the longest ongoing manga in Japan to this day. This makes the Golgo 13 manga, as of this article, 177 volumes in its 47 years of publication, and still going. In terms of adaptations outside of the manga publications, only two live action films have been made, followed by an animated movie, an OVA (original video animation or direct-to-market anime) and a 52 episode anime television series. Despite the content from both the manga and the films, anime, and television series, Golgo 13 as a character is still an enigma in terms of who he is or where he came from. The target audience for Golgo 13 is that of young adults all the way to salary men in their 50’s, which puts Golgo 13 manga demographic in seinen. Golgo 13 has been the fantasy to tickle the average salary man desire for both danger and sex, which makes it all fun in the end through printed media by Shogakukan.

The premise is simple for Golgo 13, he is an assassin who has been in every major world conflict since his creation in 1968. The break down of his name of “Golgo” represents the location of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Golgotha, and the 13 represents the thirteenth apostle Judas. This description pretty much damns Golgo 13 as a hired killer for life, which seems to be a suitable fit for him since the beginning. His preferred weapon of choice for his occupation as a sniper is the Colt M-16 model A1 or A2 that he has modified to kill his targets, no matter what challenges he might face. Golgo 13 as a marksman has made him a top candidate to hire for any type of job, from political assassinations to taking out Iraqi super weapons, which he has destroyed by using his M-16. Golgo 13 incredible marksmanship has become sort of an internet meme in a way, even for punk bands like Glassjaw to write a song about his impossible shots. To hire Golgo 13 for his services is typically $1 million dollars per hit, and he will accept your contract when you agree too transfer half the funds into his Swiss bank account.

In terms Golgo 13 appearance, he has looked the same way for almost 50 years, and will continue to do so. Either Golgo 13 is part Highlander, or if you kill enough men, you keep your late 30’s youthful face. Then again, he does have sex with as many women through out his lifetime, so there might be something to that also. With that being said about what you need to know about Golgo 13 at this point, let’s dive into the character’s big screen debut.

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Ken Takakura was an early actor in Japanese cinema based on his Wikipedia article when this film came out, and I personally think for the first big screen debut for Golgo 13, Takakura was the right role. The film story plays out like the earlier Sean Connery James Bond films, where before the opening credits scenes start in Bond films, you get set up on where to introduce our main character in the film and where the plot is starting off. In this case, Golgo 13 is paid by an organization to take out the head of a criminal group by the name of Max Boa. Golgo 13 is sent to the Middle East in order to track down his target and eliminate them. This of course gets Golgo 13 wrapped up into a sex trade ring where Boa criminal organization is behind the abduction of 20 women around Tehran, Iran, which Golgo 13 winds up being on the side of Inspector Aman in getting back the women that were abducted by Boa organization.

I make it seem like Golgo 13 is a good guy in helping out the inspecter, but he is far from it. Golgo 13 has his own agenda, he only helps those in need if there is a benefit on his end to do so. Golgo 13 is a professional, and he has remained the best in his field because of his lack of empathy for others outside of his contract he agreed too do for the client. When you see anything with Golgo 13, he is someone that you feel no reason to cheer for, because you’ll see Golgo 13 complete his job no matter what the circumstances may come in the way to stop him. You don’t see Golgo 13 as a person to cheer on, you see a perfectionist at his craft with no moral obligations attached to the people around him. If Golgo 13 doesn’t kill you, it’s not out of the kindness of his heart, it’s because you are fortunate enough not to be on his contract to kill. The same goes for the women who fall for Golgo 13 as well.

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In terms of the movie pacing, it starts out slow at first, because the people behind the film seemed to try and make it like a Bond film but weren’t really sure how to go about it. There are moments where the pacing is too drawn out in certain scenes, making the viewer seem to be not as connected to the story of the film. I tried watching this late at night, but before the main credits could roll about 8 minutes into the film, I caught myself dozing off as Golgo 13 would have a long shot of him reading documents about his target. I had to turn the TV off for the night and finish it in the morning, which helped me out in completing the film. I’m glad I did that, because the movie really picks up an hour in when Golgo 13 and the Inspector start to close in on Max Boa.

Speaking about Max Boa and how this movie is treated like a Bond film, Boa is also seen as a Bond villain. Boa is a man who has his mistress hold his telephone over his ear while he is sipping tea and having his pet parrot “Julie” rest on his shoulder, all the while drinking tea out of the same cup. This kind of goofiness of taking villains as comedic characters is something out of the Guy Hamilton Bond films, which they did come out around the time this film was in theaters. Boa even employs a blind man as his right hand man, which he tries to take out Golgo 13 in a night shootout thinking he has an upper hand, until Golgo 13 opens a refrigerator door, both showing and hindering the blind assistant and gives Golgo 13 enough time to shoot off a few rounds to kill him.

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Despite how I might state that this movie has low points, Golgo 13 is still entertaining in the end. It really hits my funny bone to see Iranian actors yell out Golgo 13 name, but with it being over dubbed in Japanese and having the dialogue not entirely match up with the lip sync, it gives a nice cheesiness factor to the film. It has its moments of being over the top, otherwise it wouldn’t have the charm that it did to entice me. Part of the ridiculous factor to Golgo 13 is how over the top it can be, especially when Golgo 13 kills the “real” Max Boa, and that’s all i’m going to say.

I tracked down this movie online in order to watch and review it for this blog, but if you ever get your hands on it, it’s a nice addition to a person’s foreign film collection. I plan on doing more reviews of Golgo 13 in the future, because the high powered scope of ridiculousness that is Golgo 13 is seen much further away than this film. If you think no one can make that shot of Golgo 13 cinematography any better than this, then the next review will make sure to hit its mark right between the eyes.

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Spoiler Alert: Golgo 13 kills the “real” Max Boa…
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