Review: The Professional: Golgo 13 (1983)

Directed by:

Distributed in Australia by:

“I don’t believe it – a man with balls as big as his, and he’s spooked.”

Such is the danger of the Very Bad Place that professional assassin Golgo 13 finds himself after contract-killing the son of a billionaire oil tycoon. Sort of an amalgam of James Bond, 1970s exploitation flicks, Eurotrash/Heavy Metal, and the coolest abstract storytelling imaginable in the early-1980s, Golgo 13 is a welcome antidote for those wishing to get away from politically correct or aesthetically laborious animated movies.

Featuring steamy erotic scenes, bloodletting on a par with a slasher pic, complicated over-the-top assassinations worthy of Dario Argento or Seijun Suzuki, sadism to compete with Hannibal Lecter, more lens flares and refracted light streaks than even Isaac Newton might have been able to endure, not to mention great (?!) lines of dialogue such as that quoted above, this is a movie for fans of exuberant excess.

At times the composition, editing and animation are absolutely stunning, with a staggering amount of variation from scene to scene. If ever there was a calling card for the technical brilliance and exhausting innovation of a cutting-edge animation studio, this is it – the confluence of drawing and painting styles, motifs, patterns, visual homages, lighting effects and so on is worth detailed analysis in its own right.

The plot, unfortunately, is not nearly as interesting, probably to the extent of turning off or offending viewers who might otherwise settle back for the ride. Golgo 13 is a particular vapid character, which of course – being an assassin – he has to be, but even Bond’s one-sided dalliances with women are usually put into some kind of humorous or tragic context, and unlike Golgo 13 Bond does actually seem to enjoy his sexual adventures! For Golgo 13, sex is simply a means to an end; often a way to obtain some piece of evidence or hardware to enable him to finish a job. (I’m sure there’s room in the ‘say anything’ world of symptomatic criticism for a queer reading of Golgo 13, but, given his lack of empathy or love for anything or anyone, he actually seems more asexual than sexually repressed – lacking an appetite for anything bar the next kill.)

Regarding the rather dated 3D helipcopter scene, which sticks out like a drab tatami mat in the middle of an evergreen forest, we ought to remember that 1983’s computer graphics contemporaries included just-released 2D arcade games like Spy Hunter and Mario Bros! (Good games, but containing nothing to make you dumbstruck in the visual department.) In this respect, the scene doesn’t come off quite so much as an objectively ugly piece of work as perhaps just an example of a simple misjudgement while pushing the boundaries – an attempt to embrace new technology stretched a few too many shades of unlit vectored-terrain too far.

Thankfully, for all its shortcomings in the plot department, Golgo 13 ties up all its loose ends and ultimately even provides some weighty issues surrounding happiness, suicide, death, capitalism and corruption for further consideration and discussion. You might just want to ignore the ‘boobs at every opportunity’ approach depicted early on.

7 lens flares out of 10.
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