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Review - Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon

Finally got around to watching yet another hard-to-find DVD I bought a while back: Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon, part of a six-disc Sonny Chiba collection.

The second attempt at a live-action adaptation of Takao Saito’s famous manga series chronicling the exploits of the world’s deadliest sniper (the first starred Ken Takakura, best known in the West for his roles in The Yakuza and Black Rain), Toei clearly intended for Assignment Kowloon to be a Bond-caliber globetrotting adventure; the eponymous mission takes our intrepid assassin from Miami to Hong Kong to Kyoto to Macao, pitting him against dogged Chinese detectives, bloodthirsty American drug lords, and corrupt European diplomats (all of whom are conspicuously fluent in Japanese).

Despite the studio’s lofty ambitions, an unmistakable B-movie stench hangs over the film. Choppy editing, shoddy day-for-night effects, and poorly integrated miniatures often render the carefully choreographed action laughable at best, and entirely incomprehensible at worst. Fortunately, Chiba’s charismatic performance offsets these stylistic shortcomings; he nails his character’s cold, remorseless, “dragon-like” glare, makes the act of assembling a rifle akin to a religious experience, and absolutely convinces the viewer that he’s capable of hitting a target through the windshield of a moving helicopter while suspended from a cliff, blatantly disregarding such factors as wind resistance and bullet drop.

It’s a shame that Chiba’s work outside his (excellent) cameo in Tarantino’s Kill Bill remains largely unseen by American audiences; any actor that can single-handedly salvage cheaply-made schlock like Assignment Kowloon deserves a lot more acclaim.

[Originally written October 17, 2017.]

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