Golgo 13: The Professional
I was heartbroken when the local video lending library went out of business. Sure, they were pretty crappy but hidden within their shelves were a couple of, what I call, "dust collectors". Old anime they'd probably throw out if they knew they still had. Including this tape, Golgo-13. Fortunately I found an even crappier video library that still had this rare, but not exactly good, tape for my.... um, viewing pleasure.
The lead figure in this story is the mysterious master hit man known only by his code name, Golgo-13. The video box assures us that he's "Indestructable to his enemies and irresistable to women". He's certainly heavily built, scarred on both cheeks, wearing a proper gangster suit. And it only takes a couple of minutes into the video for him to be planting a bullet in the head of his first target.
Is he a good guy? does he enjoy killing? Does he have a tragic past? Who knows, certainly not us, because he isn't the most expressive individual on the planet. But he's got a gun, impressive skills, a selection of seedy contacts and a lot of people wanting to either have sex with him or hire him to kill someone for them. However it seems one of his hits, the third in the movie, has earnt him a staggeringly powerful enemy who's intent upon revenge. And he's willing to call in every resource money and power can make available, to make alliances with psychotic killers, to make sure that Golgo-13 and everyone associated with him is killed.
This tape is a "Manga video" tape, a title which has mystified all anime fans. I think they were an Australian offshoot of an english company trying to turn a buck by releasing video nasties, and the occasional action classic, onto the young video market. They're gone now I believe, from releasing too much trash I can hope, but I really have to mention the one legacy they leave. There's a musical montage they put at the front of their tapes, showing off all their titles, and it kicks much ass.
It's a shame the movie doesn't it. It's not really bad as such, it makes a lot of the right sort of motions, but it can't pull it off. And the reason is because it is, without fail, incredibly leaden. Almost every element of the title seems to work to suck any possibility of enjoyment out the action we watch. So while there's no obvious faults, the end result is just sort of tiring and tedious.
The first element that springs to mind are the characters, especially Golgo-13. He's really, incredibly, boring. See he's much too bad ass to actually have much in the way of character, ability to express himself or even show a lot of feeling. For example we're subjected to him having sex, on numerous ocassions (yes, this is an R rated title) and it is made clear to us that he's too tough to care or get involved. The result is supposed to be cool, but what it ends up being is lifeless and uninteresting. If he can't bring himself to care about what's going on why should we.
Then we get onto the story. There's lots of individual bits that should be really great. If I were to describe a story element, say for example what becomes of the daughter of his target, it would sound really great. And that's because you'd imagine how it would be done well. But this movie both does it badly, and sort of carelessly stacks events one after another without any great care or concern. It's a movie of fragments, without much structure other than setting up a whole bunch of encounters, killers and victims. The dialogue actually manages to accentuate this, characters give speeches rather than interact, and the way in which it is presented is extremely pretentious.
Golgo-13 also doesn't seem very clever. For example it doesn't seem very hard at all for the people after him to track down not only him but also his informants. His schemes tend to be simplistic, with his only contribution the ability to make shots at unrealistically long ranges. And those into weapons will be horrified to see these shots made with a "modified" M16 rifle. The 5.56mm M16 is a lot of things, certainly a classic and recognisable weapon, but a long range sniper rifle with the power to go through a foot of armored glass at the end of its flight it is not. His main advantage seems to be that his enemy is even stupider than he is. The stupid actions of his enemies, especially the ludicrously pointless gold and silver, making us wonder why we had to sit through all the buildup.
But it really is the production which finishes it all off. It's amazingly heavily shadowed and heavily worked art that makes for some decent screenshots on the box. There's one section we see his hand, on the gearstick of his car, and each knuckle and tendon of the hand is explicitly drawn and shadowed. But, with this level of detail, it can't actually animate any of this stuff. As a result action sequences are short and use lots of methods to hide the limitations they're working under. They try to be arty, but it just ends up looking sort of dull and discontinuous, which accentuates the "fragments" feel the story had anyway. The combination of excessive detail in some parts, explosions and bullet impacts being popular, combined with the abstracted movement in others gives a very strange and uneven progression. There's also some still shots, unsubtle video trickery (possibly done for the western release?) and some really average early computer graphics. The voices are more than a little corny, which is the last thing this title needed, and the music is forgettable.
So in essence there's nothing specifically "wrong" here, there's just far too little that's right. There's no energy, limited story, limited character and the production is too obsessed with unimportant detail, and too cheap on actual action, to make up for it. It has sex (soft-core), a rape, gouting blood, a high body count and even the ocassional f-word thrown in for good measure, but that certainly doesn't make the film any less dull.