The Professional: Golgo 13 (1983)

Country: Japan
Chief Director: Osamu Deszaki
Animation Director: Akio Sugino
Music: Toshiyuki Omori
Based on characters created by Takao Saito

Gogol 13, and his alter ego Duke Togo are popular characters in Japan. He began his life as a comic strip written and illustrated by Takao Saito. But the pages of a comic were not big enough to contain Golgo 13 and soon he had made it to the big screen. The first attempt was a live action movie, simply titled Golgo 13 (1973) starring Ken Takakura. This was followed up with Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment (1977) with Sonny Chiba in the starring role. But as Golgo 13’s origins were illustrated it is appropriate that he should be given the animé treatment.

The Professional: Golgo 13 is a slick Manga production. The movie has the works, from swirling flame and blood soaked backgrounds, to neon flashing lights, multiple splits screens, and frozen snap shots of colourful graphic art. From go to whoa, this movie is one funky visual trip.

For Golgo 13, the movie is essentially a string of encounters with a host of villains. Each villain is more lethal and perverted than the last. Some of the villains that Golgo 13 has to contend with are: Leonard Dawson, Snake, and the twins Silver and Gold. Dawson is a billionaire whose son was killed by Golgo 13. The death of his son has left him in a crazed state where he utilises all the power and resources that money can buy to track down and destroy Golgo 13. This includes using the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and the local police. But his real trump cards are a trio of psychopaths. The first, Snake is a truly repugnant, violent piece of work. On a physical level he is the only serious threat to Golgo 13. The other two psycho’s, Silver and Gold are introduced late into the story, and as such their impact is rather limited.

The sexual politics of this movie is very confused. Actually ‘confused’ may not be the right word. ‘Disturbing’ may be more accurate. During the story, Golgo 13 is sent to assassinate a mysterious underworld figure, known as Doctor Z. To get to the Doctor, Golgo 13 is perfectly willing to sleep with his target’s daughter. The twist comes when it is revealed that Doctor Z is in fact a woman – the same woman that he has been sleeping with. And she is well aware that he has been sent to eliminate her, but has still enjoyed the sexual conquest. She has used him for her pleasure as much as Golgo 13 has used her to get to her father (or so he thought!)

There is one scene that does let the film down slightly. It is an early exercise in computer animation, during a helicopter gunship battle. It may have been cutting edge when this film was released in 1983, but today with the giant strides in computer animation it simply looks clumsy and unimaginative.

As you can imagine, a film about an assassin can be quite violent, and Golgo 13 despite being an animated feature is equally violent. People who are more in tune with the cutesy American style of animation may find this film abhorrent in the extreme. But that would be a shame, because Golgo 13 has a lot to offer the genre. If you don’t mind the odd bit of violence and you are a bit jaded by the run-of-the-mill espionage thriller, I recommend that you give The Professional: Golgo 13
a try.

This review is based on the Madman Australia DVD

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