21 June 2016 | Red-Barracuda
Unfairly obscure Japanese/Iranian action gem
This is an early live-action adaption of a manga comic of the same name. I think the best way to think of it is as a Japanese version of James Bond. Except in this case the lead character is a hired professional killer (in fairness Bond was really more this than an actual spy) and, as could probably be expected given its Japanese origins, it's decidedly more violent. In actual fact, despite a few moments of memorable humour, this is hardly campy fare and is more an example of straight-ahead gritty 70's action. The lead character Golgo 13 is played brilliantly by Ken Takakura, who looks like a genuine bad ass throughout the picture. This is clearly a character that deserves to be better known. As does the film itself. It remains extremely obscure. Having seen it I find this a strange scenario as this is not a ropey z-grade film or avant-garde oddity but a pretty well made b-movie with lots of action and memorable scenes. Aside from its strengths as a solid action flick, one of its main interest factors nowadays is that fact that it is set in pre-Revolution Iran. Set in and around Tehran the action roves around the streets of the city, the ancient ruins and holy temples. There is even a nightclub with an erotic dancer. It's a time-capsule scenario where we see a far more liberal culture very different to the one we know today. It makes a really great backdrop for the events in the film – simply something we are not accustomed to seeing any more.
The story has Golgo 13 hired to take out a villain called Goa who has been killing secret agents as well as conducting a terror campaign in which many women have been abducted from the streets. Nothing much is known about Goa but it eventually becomes clear that he has a pet parrot, which results in a genuinely hilarious ending – you really have to see it to believe it. This is a film that it almost goes without saying deserves to be seen by a far wider audience. It remains so far off the radar that it barely even qualifies as a cult item! I say seek it out, it holds up very well compared to the best of the western urban action movies of its day. It's tough, cool, strange and unique – it is well worth your time checking this one out.