Golgo 13: The Professional
As I mentioned before, in my review of Judge, there are certain anime series out there that walk the line between highbrow films and lowbrow trash. And Golgo 13: The Professional is another prime example. Sure there’s gratuitous sex scenes, explicit violence, and just tons of trashy scenes, but the way it’s all put together really shows some great style and sophistication. It is only when one glances at the director, that this starts to make sense. Golgo 13 was directed by none other then Osamu Dezaki. And he brings his personal style to this film, which really adds to the overall production. Dezaki often uses triple takes, dramatic pauses, and other innovative techniques in the movie. And while in the 10 episode OVA series of Black Jack this became a little annoying after awhile (although still very cool), in a feature film that clocks in at just under an hour and a half this works out perfectly. It never has the time to become tiresome or boring.
Well I guess I should get on to what the film is about. Golgo 13: The Professional is the first anime adoption of the long running manga series of the same name by Takao Saito (kind of…). It’s a popular Seinen manga, well known in Japan that’s been running for over 40 years now. The manga is entirely episodic, with no overarching storyline, and very few returning characters besides Golgo himself. Golgo (also known as Duke Togo ) is an assassin-for-hire, one of the best in the world, and the stories in the manga often depict him either killing someone for a client with his patented and personalized M16 sniper rifle, or staying one step ahead of someone who’s trying to kill him. The movie combines both aspects of this into one. Golgo is hired to kill the son of a wealthy oil tycoon, and accomplishes this job with ease. But the oil tycoon, Leonard Dawson, devastated by watching his son die in front of him, vowes to get revenge. He will kill Duke Togo, the man who murdered his son, if it’s the last thing he does. He hires thugs, goons, and other assassins to kill Duke. He even manages to use his power and influence to weasel the U.S. Army, the FBI, and the CIA into helping him kill Duke Togo. The most interesting person trying to kill Duke is the mutant named Snake. And it’s no fun at all to describe him to you. As he is without a doubt the best part of the entire movie. So you’re just going to have to watch this film and see why he is such a great (and truly insane) character. His fight with Duke in the elevator is one of my all time favorite fight scenes, PERIOD. It’s just something everyone should see! For those paying attention, and not just watching for the excellent fight scenes (and/or the sex scenes) there is a great twist in the end, which helps explain a lot about Leonard Dawson’s motives. The movie is a testosterone trip. In essence all this movie does is alternate between huge manly man duking it out with Golgo and Golgo screwing all the hot chicks (and he even keeps that same smug expression on his face while screwing them!). But it’s not done in a way were the plot is completely horrible, and I respect that. I hate it when terrible writing works its way into these types of films. All of this fighting is completely over-the-top of course, but that’s a good thing here. And although the story is decent, and the fight scenes amazing, it’s the characters that make the film. We may learn very little about Golgo, but he still manages to be an interesting character. He’s incredibly skilled with all types of weapons, and can kill people faster then you can say their name. He’s completely unemotional, has no qualms about killing ANYONE, and is just down right cool. Not to mention just his character existing raises questions about why anyone would ever want to be an assassin in the first place. What type of life can you live when your job is killing people for cold hard cash? Leonard Dawson’s need for revenge helps make the character even more fascinating then he otherwise would have been. He has almost unlimited resources, and an incredible amount of power, yet his failure to kill Duke time and time again only makes his will stronger. I have to have at least an ounce of respect for someone so determined. There is a great scene later in the movie that shows just how far he is willing to go to get his revenge, but I won’t spoil this. And although it paints the character in terrible light, it makes him all the more interesting. Some of the other assassins like Gold and Silver are also quite intriguing. But as I said before, Snake is amazing! Watch the movie for Snake, and Snake alone and you will not be disappointed. He is easily one of my all time favorite villains. And the leaders of the CIA, FBI and US Army are also quite nuts, and interesting to watch. I like to watch the little bickering between each of them. As for the women, they are all immensely beautiful, and pretty cool people. I wouldn’t call them all “likeable” but they are at the very least a little sympathetic.
TMS Entertainment, famouse for the Lupin III and Case Closed/Detective Conan series, animated Golgo 13: The Professional. The artwork in this movie is unique. Nothing else out there looks quite like this. It’s cinematic, and yet looks like it’s straight out of the pages of some gritty underground western comic book at the same time. The character designs are all very well done. Each person looks completely different from one another, and you can tell a lot of work went into each and every character. Again the style of character designs makes the movie seem cinematic, yet gritty and decrepit. And the characters look like they could easily have come from the original manga (well the better character designs from the manga at least. The Golgo 13 manga is known for having some poor art now and again depending on who is drawing it at the time). The girls are all smoking hot, the men real manly men, and Snake…is Snake. The backgrounds are incredibly detailed for such an old film, and everything looks wonderful together. It’s just all very nice too look at. Sure everything is dirty, old, and dark, but it’s done in a way that it looks great when it all comes together. It really helps build an atmosphere. Then you have all the different camera angles used, that really help the film ground the audience. We understand how we should feel during each scene. Dezaki is a master at making anything look dramatic, and this film was the perfect chance for him to showcase his talents. Just the way Dezaki and his team animate certain scenes, like an explosion, or a car chase, really can manage to get the audience excited. This is a well made action movie, from top to bottom. The animation is stunning for such an old film. The budget on this must have been through the roof. And let’s not forget the CGI. Golgo 13: The Professional was one of the first anime movies to use 3-D CGI (Computer Generated Images). And although it’s only used for one scene, it has to be mentioned. This film came out in 1983, and for that time period I can’t believe that this was even possible. I can’t even imagine how much money this one scene must have cost. It’s comparable to (early) PlayStation 1 or Nintendo 64 graphics. Which is not to say it’s very good. While years ahead of it’s time, it looks very cheesy, and it’s hard to believe that it ever looked very good. In fact I don’t think this ever looked all that nice to whoever was watching the movie. As the CGI and traditional animation don’t mix at all, and it looks like two completely different shows, just cutting back and forth between each other. But despite it looking cheesy, despite it not mixing at all, I think like it (and I’m not the only one who does). It gives the film it’s own charm I guess.
The music here was done by Toshiyuki Omori. The opening theme is used throughout the movie (in different forms) and it’s a very catchy theme. The song is called “Pray for You” and it’s incredibly exciting. Words cannot express how much I enjoy this song. I just love it, and can listen to it over and over. Whenever you hear it, your heart beats faster, your eyes widen a bit, and it even stresses you out a little. To me, reacting to music is a sign that it’s a good song. It’s a very addictive tune, and it syncs perfectly with each scene it’s used in. The English Dub was directed by the late, great Carl Macek, and it’s quite well done for it’s time. No one will ever claim the actors here are guilty of underacting, that’s for sure. But this is an intense, high octane movie, and an intense, dramatic dub is the only type that would really fit it. Sure it shows it’s age a bit, but I really enjoyed it. Gregory Snegoff handled the lead, Golgo 13 like a pro, as he should. Because Golgo is not a very complex character to grasp (although he is entirely awesome!). It would be really hard to mess up Golgo. But he also plays Snake. And he’s just perfect as Snake. Snake is creepy, disturbing, strange, and evil, and each word out of Snegoff’s mouth is just dripping with all of this. Michael McConnohie fit perfectly as Leonard Dawson, the oil tycoon. He seems like he’s truly desperate, like he really is out there seeking revenge. It doesn’t seem like McConnohie is acting, more like he just really sounds like that, which is fine with me. Leonard Dawson’s son is played by a young Tony Oliver, and he did an admirable job for the short time his character lived. Some of the smaller roles are not perfect, but it’s not fair to nit-pick such an old dub. And even these roles are not at all bad, just not as amazing as the main characters. On the large this is a very good dub for it’s time, although it may bother some who hate overacting. But again this little bit of overacting is entirely fitting. In fact I wouldn’t have it any other way.
All in all Golgo 13: The Professional is an intense movie. It’s non stop action, with crazy characters, and some great directing. The plot isn’t terrible (which is always nice in an action movie), and it even has a nice little twist at the end. The dub is a solid Macek-Streamline dub, with a little overacting, but you gotta love it anyway. This is one of the many anime movies Streamline Pictures helped to make famous in the early 1990’s. They first put it out in movie theaters for a limited time, and then released it on VHS (dub-only). After their license expired, Urban Vision license-rescued the title, and re-released it on DVD (in 2000) which has both languages on it. The DVD has an art gallery, trailers for some of Urban vision’s other stuff, and an interview with Mata Yamamato, a producer for the film. The interview while short, is very interesting. I just love it when a company puts an extra like this on the DVDs. It shows they care about the release, at least a little bit. In this interview Yamamato (in fluent english) goes over in detail how work on the manga gets done, since in addition to working on the movie as producer, he was one of the writers for the manga. He then compares the film to a “regular moviegoers movie” and explains how it’s not exactly for Otaku. He says when they made it, that was the direction they choose to go in, and the art style helps to emphasize this. The interview ends with him commenting on how the CGI has aged quite a bit, but it was really top of the line stuff when it was made. He then notes that the film it’s self is sort of ageless, and he’s happy that people are still fans of it so long after it came out. It’s nice when companies release older titles like this on DVD, as I hate to see classics go out of print, or worse never make it to DVD at all. The only real problem I can find with this release is the DVD cover leaves more to be desired. It’s not horrible, and I’m sure Urban Vision didn’t have much artwork available for such an old title, but I think it could have had a better cover then this. Since Sentai is releasing the new Golgo 13 TV series, this is the perfect time to (re)watch the classic film. I highly recommend it.