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Review: A Colt Is My Passport

Watched A Colt Is My Passport on the Criterion Channel. Directed by Takashi Nomura, this deliciously pulpy, noir-flavored yakuza thriller isn’t nearly as stylistically bold or narratively subversive as the offbeat, oddball masterpieces that emerged from the twisted imagination of fellow Nikkatsu workhorse Seijun Suzuki (Tokyo Drifter, Branded to Kill, Youth of the Beast), but the elegant, efficient, competent craftsmanship on display still manages to make it a memorable cinematic experience.

The story is the epitome of minimalism: after being betrayed by his employers, a taciturn contract killer (played by Joe Shishido, who personifies “cool” despite his comically chubby cheeks) must evade two rival gangs as he attempts to escape the country. The plot never really gets any more complex or nuanced than that, though Nomura elevates the somewhat thin material by lingering on smaller, subtler details—in one particularly captivating scene, for example, our protagonist takes a moment to admire a bird through the scope of his sniper rifle while awaiting his target’s arrival. Such juxtapositions of beauty and bloodshed become a recurring theme, creating an almost hypnotic rhythm (aided by composer Harumi Ibe’s Spaghetti Western-inspired score).

This perfectly balanced blend of “classy” and “trashy” elements makes A Colt Is My Passport the quintessential B-movie—a bit rough around the edges, perhaps, but nevertheless effortlessly enjoyable. Indeed, one could even argue that its few superficial flaws only enhance its inherent charm.

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