Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment/Review

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< Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment
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Ask any exploitation movie fan what their favourite Sonny Chiba movie is and most are likely to reply The Streetfighter and rightly so; anti-hero Terry Tsurugi is without doubt karate champ Chiba at his bone-breaking best. However for my money if you’re looking to see Chiba at the peak of his grindhouse chic you need to check out his ruthlessly cool performance as mysterious super sniper Duke Togo in Yukio Noda’s 1977 flick ‘Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment’.

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Based on the longest running manga in Japanese comic book history ‘Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment’ is the second of two live action film adaptions; the first, made in 1973, starred Ken Takakura in the title role. His nickname derived from Golgotha, the place where Christ was supposedly crucified, Golgo 13 is a professional assassin whose weapon of choice is an M16 rifle equipped with telescopic sight and silencer. Nobody knows his nationality, his age or origins but his reputation precedes him; he never misses a shot, never shakes hands and never gives up until his target is dead.

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Togo’s missions send him all over the globe; the previous film had been set in Tehran and on this occasion he‘s flying off to Hong Kong to rub out Chou Lei Feng, a drug smuggler who has been double-crossing his partners in the U.S. The Hong Kong police are on Chou’s trail too and Sonny Chiba’s Sister Streetfighter and Dragon Princess co-star Sue Shihomi plays uncover cop Lin-Li, who does a knife-throwing act in a nightclub while eavesdropping on Chou’s shady dealings via a bug planted in his office and a Bond-esque radio receiver in her make-up compact.

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Although ruthless in pursuit of his targets Duke Togo is not amoral. He lies to the police to protect a woman who has just shot the scumbag who raped her sister although this inadvertently brings the assassin into contact with the bizarrely named Officer Sminny who is heading the investigation into Chou’s drug trafficking. When Togo and the girl (played by Emi Shindo who can also be seen in the sexy Golden Harvest thriller The Body Is Willing) are confronted by a gang of hoodlums who want revenge for their partner’s death Chiba flexes his street-fighting muscles and deals them all a swift and merciless ass-kicking. It turns out that the gang are employed by Chou who has since captured Lin-Li. She receives a brutal beating at the hands of the crooks while their boss grinds his cigar out on her stomach.

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Meanwhile Chou maintains a clean public profile by donating money to the building of a new public swimming pool. At the opening ceremony Togo prepares to make his hit but someone else beats him to it sending the dead drug smuggler tumbling head first into the new pool. When his employers find out that somebody else pulled the trigger they offer to increase Togo’s fee if he tracks down the culprit, finds out who Chou was working with, and finishes the job. Of course the police blame Chou’s murder on the infamous Golgo 13 so the question is, will Togo catch up with the killer before the cops catch up with him? And will he really have to bed Chou’s foxy young widow to get the information he needs? You betcha.

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‘Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment’ is not an all-out kick n’ kill-fest like the Streetfighter movies but then Duke Togo is a cool n’ calculated professional killer not a mad dog brawler like Terry Tsurugi. The film’s awesome action highlight is when Togo takes out a rival hit-man by sliding down a crane and hurling a 4 foot metal pole straight through the guy’s chest! The film’s plot won’t win any awards for its sophistication but it does contain a decent quota of punch-ups, shoot outs and charming 70s cop show clichés, plus some brief but appealing female nudity, while the funky score wouldn’t sound out of place in any Blaxploitation flick from the same year. In fact the same could be said for Togo’s wardrobe and his tightly permed hair style which I can only describe as a ‘Japfro’! The antagonism bordering on admiration between the two determined professionals on either side of the law prefigures the relationship between cop and assassin portrayed in John Woo’s ‘The Killer’ two decades later and during one chase sequence Chiba jumps off the roof of a double-decker Hong Kong bus years before Jackie Chan pulled the same stunt.

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This review is based on a subtitled Japanese language print but I gather that the English dubbing that accompanied the films international release is a real hoot and no doubt adds extra grindhouse flavour. Whichever version you see ‘Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment’ is an absolute must for all Sonny Chiba fans.

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Narcan is the GCDb's esteemed UK contributor. As a youth his earliest exploitation film experience was a My Bloody Valentine/The Funhouse midnight double bill. Grindhouse icons that he holds in highest regards are Christina Lindberg and Frank Henelotter. Two of his favorite exploitation genres include Nunsploitation and Lucha Libre.
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