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Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon

1977's Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon is based upon a popular manga (comic book), like many other popular Japanese films before and since. It concerns the doings of a highly skilled, professional assassin whose latest job is to knock off a rebellious Hong Kong mob kingpin. Naturally things go badly - another assassin gets the job done before he gets his chance, and an ambitious Japanese cop is hot on his trail, among other complications. But like most such too-good-to-be-real characters, he emerges victorious at the end.

Golgo 13 Golgo 13 (or Duke Togo, his alias from the comic used again in the film) is played by the Streetfighter himself, Sonny Chiba, so you know it's not just going to be gunfights. Thankfully, Chiba is let loose in a couple of different scenes to show off his legitimate karate skills - and, honestly, I wish there were more Japanese films where the heroes fought empty-handed, as there are so many of the Chinese variety. The henchmen at the wrong end of the punches and kicks I recognize from Enter the Dragon and similar martial arts films - and, since much of this movie was filmed in Hong Kong, I wonder how many Chinese actors were hired by director Yukio Noda.

This is actually the second Golgo 13 film; the previous had starred Ken Takakura, who, while perfectly good as an underworld assassin as well as practically anything else he's ever done, just cannot hold a candle to Sonny Chiba. (Well, to be fair, who could?) Along for the ride are stalwart Koji Tsuruta (whose resume is practically a top-100 list of great Japanese genre films) and Etsuko 'Sue' Shihomi, who was one of the top students at Chiba's Japan Action Club and is probably best known to Western audiences as the titular heroine in Sister Street Fighter. Beautiful, a skilled martial artist, and a dynamic screen presence, it's too bad she wasn't given a larger role here.

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