BY BILL FOREMAN |
What if Cannon Films made an anime?
If you’ve never heard of Cannon Films, you may have seen one of their 80’s action movies, usually starring the likes of Chuck Norris or Charles Bronson. Films like Invasion U.S.A or the Death Wish franchise consisted largely of disjointed plots, over the top action & violence, and gratuitous sex scenes.
Golgo 13: The Professional is the anime equivalent of a Cannon Film. In short, your classic B-movie.
Golgo 13, the codename of one Duke Togo, is the world’s greatest assassin with a mysterious past. He is hired by people from all walks of life to take the lives of others. From mobsters to industrialists to other top assassins, Golgo goes after them all. Golgo himself is the prototypical heterosexual male power fantasy: six-pack abs, tough demeanor, and every woman wants to have sex with him. For me, this cartoonish hyper-hetero-male-fantasy adds a laughable ridiculousness to Golgo. No matter how much each woman is enjoying sex with Golgo, he’s completely stone-faced.
Golgo 13: The Professional doesn’t shake up the series formula too much. Throughout the movie, Golgo commits a number of unconnected assassinations and has sex with multiple women. I think the Golgo 13 formula works well for an episodic TV series but in a film format, the plot feels disjointed and lacks focus. It isn’t until the assassination of Robert Dawson that the story gets its act together.
In exchange for a coherent story, you get a film that looks great but has an absolutely ridiculous plot. “How ridiculous” you ask? Well, Leonard Dawson (Robert’s father) gets the CIA, FBI, and the U.S. Military to go after Golgo. Additionally, he hires some of the most lethal and unstable criminals to go after Golgo and attacks him with the most gorgeous military helicopter you’ll ever see.
What keeps Golgo 13: The Professional somewhat grounded is its fantastic art direction by Shichirō Kobayashi, and the directorial style of the legendary Osamu Dezaki.
The film is draped in shadow, with big city lights shimmering in the distance, creating a film noir feel. There are also several of Dezaki’s signature film techniques that appear throughout the movie, from his shimmering water techniques to the freeze-framing of the action scenes, which Dezaki called “postcard memories.”
It makes perfect sense that after Golgo 13, Dezaki would go on to direct the OVAs Ninja Scroll and Sword for Truth that both have similar, stoic main characters and plots that emphasize action scenes and sex scenes. The final battle between Golgo and a helicopter deserves a shoutout. The helicopter was created using primitive CGI and while it looks beyond dated from a 2019 point of view, from a historical perspective, the helicopter is pretty impressive.
Golgo 13: The Professional is a mixed bag. While the story is incoherent at times, its sheer wackiness makes up for the plot’s shortcomings. The movie has some great art direction and by that alone, it’s worth watching. If you grew up watching Cannon movies and exploitation films, you’ll enjoy Golgo 13: The Professional. If you don’t like exploitation films (warts and all), you might want to pick something else from your endless backlog.