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Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon

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    Ian Jane
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  • Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon

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    Released by: Optimum Films
    Released on: September 19, 2005.
    Director: Yukio Noda
    Cast: Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Shiomi, Jerry Ito, Callan Leung, Koji Tsuruta
    Year: 1977

    The Movie:

    Based on the long running Japanese manga (comics) series, Sonny Chiba (The Street Fighter, The Executioner) plays Golgo 13, a ruthless killer-for-hire, in this sequel to Toei's original 1973 picture (simply titled Golgo 13 and starring Ken Takakura in the lead role). When Golgo 13 is hired to travel from Japan to Hong Kong to assassinate a drug lord, he's beaten to it by a mysterious rival assassin, but is assumed guilty by a hardboiled Hong Kong cop referred to only as Detective Smith (played by Callan Leung) who's out to put Golgo behind bars for good.

    Along the way, Golgo saves a young woman (Etsuko Shiomi of Sister Street Fighter and The Dragon Princess) who kills her partner in an argument in an alleyway for no apparent reason. Keeping her out of harms way and away from the police, he later uses her for the same purpose when he's shot in the leg while escaping from the police himself.

    As it happens, a diplomat named Mr. Polanski (Jerry Ito of Mothra and Message From Space) turns out to be behind it all and the film comes to a great climax with Golgo, dangling from a cliff, attempting to get his revenge on Polanski, who's flying in a helicopter, all the while with the cops trying to keep anyone else from getting killed.

    Though not the greatest Chiba film ever made, his screen presence is remarkable as the tough as nails gun for hire Golgo, though the film suffers from too many extended periods in which we don't see or here from Golgo and it doesn't move at a lightning fast pace either. Shiomi and Chiba, as always, are great together here and have always seemed to have a nice chemistry on screen (likely due to the fact that she's one of his protégés from the 'Japan Action Club', a training school for martial arts film stars that Chiba ran in the 1970s).

    There are, however, some truly memorable moments in the movie, and the scenes where Golgo 13 is at work are great, with Chiba decked out in a slick 70s style business suit, smoking a cigar, and showing us what being a tough guy is really all about.

    On an interesting side note, there is a scene in Golgo 13 - Assignment: Kowloon that was lifted almost shot-for-shot by John Woo's The Killer, where the assassin plans his shot to the hit at the same time a starter pistol is fired at a race near a swimming pool, so obviously the film has had more influence than a lot of people have given it credit for.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Optimum Release of Golgo 13 looks great presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35.1 and enhanced for anamorphic television sets. The colors look pretty solid, black levels stay strong and deep and don't break up or pixelate, and edge enhancement is very mild and not overly problematic at all. The image is clean and strong throughout and print damage is never a problem. This is, in short, a damn fine transfer that, aside from some mild to moderate film grain that creeps into the frame from time to time, does a nice job of representing the film on DVD. The image is much stronger and way, way, way more colorful than the Crash Cinema release that came out domestically a few years back.

    The Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is fine and free of any major problems. There's some shrillness in the high end in a couple of spots and one or two scenes that are a little on the flat side but I'm really nit picking on this one. For the most part, the disc sounds just fine and while the mix isn't going to blow anyone's ass out the backdoor of your home theater, it'll do the trick. Sadly, the English language dub that was on the Crash Cinema home video release has not been included, but the Japanese dub is far superior (it'd have been nice to have it for the sake of completion).

    Aside from a pretty decent Sonny Chiba biography, there are trailers for The Street Fighter, Return Of The Street Fighter, Street Fighter's Last Revenge, The Killing Machine, Yakuza Deka, Yakuza Deka: The Assassin, The Bullet Train, Golgo 13: Assignment Kowlooon, and G.I. Samurai (aka Time Slip). There's also a small gallery of Japanese poster art for most of the aforementioned films as well. It's regrettable that Optimum either chose not to or was unable to provide both versions of the film. While the longer Japanese cut of the movie is far superior, die hard fans will want to hold on to both versions because we're anal and strange like that.

    The Final Word:

    Once again, it would have been nice to see more effort put into the extra features department but Optimum has delivered very nice audio and video quality on this release. While Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon is hardly Chiba's finest film, when he's on screen he shines and seeing the film in a decent presentation such as this really helps things quite a bit.
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