Golgo 13 (1977)

tn_golgo13GOLGO 13 from 1977 – sometimes subtitled ASSIGNMENT KOWLOON, but not to be confused with ASSIGNMENT MIAMI BEACH – is the second adaptation of a popular Japanese comic book. Sonny Chiba plays an infamous assassin known as Golgo 13. But fuck the code name, his real name, or at least the alias he’s living under, is “Duke Togo.” I mean why would you even want people to call you Golgo 13 if you’re normally called Duke Togo? Just stick with the one awesome name, in my opinion. Don’t hog ’em.

This is a great role for Chiba because he’s just full of larger than life swagger. He wears flashy suits and sunglasses, he has boxes of weapons delivered to him at his hotel, he satisfies women, he’s the very best at killing people and outsmarting everybody. He’s Shaft times James Bond but sort of the bad guy, which makes him kind of cooler than either one. And director Yukio Noda (BRONSON LEE, CHAMPION) shamelessly drapes it in the stylistic cliches of the time. A good thing.

An opening about Hong Kong police responding to a murder moves to a small boat off Miami where a white man named Rocky Brown is expecting to meet the legendary assassin Golgo 13. He’s worried because he doesn’t see any boats around, when suddenly Golgo climbs right out of the water onto the boat with scuba gear. Two other white men watch on a telescope from a hotel balcony, discussing who he is, explaining him to us. Suddenly Golgo pulls out a rifle – is he gonna betray this guy that wants to hire him? No, he fires at the hotel, taking out both of the exposition guys.

Golgo is hired to assassinate a Hong Kong drug kingpin who’s been stealing from the organization, and who they fear may plea bargain with Smithy (“Callan,” aka Lun Chia), a detective who’s been breathing down their necks. And it’s not a bluff, he’s killed three previous hitmen who have come after him. (Golgos 10, 11 and 12?)

mp_golgo13As he takes the job the title pops on the screen and a singer sings “Golgoooooooo!,” again acting like it’s a James Bond movie or something. It’s one of these movies where we just know by the music how awesome the title character is. That’s something that has been sorely lacking in cinema for decades. We need more movies where the music denotes extreme awesomeness. We need the funk back, really.

So, you know, there’s all kinds of intrigue and double crosses and what not. He goes to assassinate a diplomat at a big public ceremony only to see some fuckin white lady do it first and then run off. So he gets blamed and doesn’t even do it, has to figure out what’s going on, who’s paying who, etc. Actually, similar to what happens in the first (and in my opinion only) MACHETE.

There’s a night club he goes to where women throw knives as entertainment. A good way to establish that also they’re gonna throw some knives at my man Duke. He meets alot of women, some he has sex with, most try to kill him. He’s one of these guys – we still have them in action movies – who is able to have a battle to the death while also having his dick in somebody. See, he’s doing this girl from the night club when he notices a gun reflected in her clock radio. So he flips her over and shoots into the curtain, and the woman with the gun drops dead. He got her between the eyes.

Maybe it would be a different story if he had already busted a nut/wasted his life essence, but we know for sure that a boner does not get in the way of his reflexes and marksmanship.

This was a better time, when even cops wore polyester shirts with pointy collars and Asics sneakers. You know, clothes are generally more comfortable and breathable these days, but there was something to be said for those shirts. Every day that we are not all dressed like this we as a society are missing out.


But even if we all still had those threads we couldn’t compete with Duke Togo in the style and swagger department. I cannot understate how important his fashion is to this character. He sports several great looks in this movie.

You got this kind of safari meets MIAMI VICE look:


And this one that would still work for Daniel Craig on a talk show or red carpet:


And this pinstripe suit/sunglasses combo that makes me think Ed McMahon:


Sometimes his hair looks like a GI Joe doll:


Of course when a guy is awesome as Golgo 13 you’re gonna want to have some scenes where people talk about how awesome he is. His legend precedes him. Take for example the conversation between two gangsters about this unknown killer they’re dealing with:

“What does he look like?”

“An Asian with eyes like a razor, and an excellent karate fighter. He dodged Nyudo’s knives and shot him between the eyes.”

“What? Between the eyes?”

“What is it?”

“It must be Golgo 13.”

“Golgo 13?”

“You must’ve heard of him. He’s the best there is.”

And he really is. It’s not just attitude, style and sex-shootouts. He’s also an acrobat. There’s a Jackie Chan type stunt scene where he jumps into a moving double decker bus, climbs out the window onto the top, grabs onto a pole and does a whole gymnastics thing and climbs down like a monkey.


And then Smithy describes it as “He got off the bus.”

There are other legendary assassins in the world, but who the fuck do they think they’re fooling trying to go after Golgo 13? Case in point: this white guy named Schulz. Schulz chases Golgo into a junkyard. He’s hiding somewhere in there, but it seems like he’s cornered. Then all the sudden he drops from a crane and throws a pipe that he found and it impales the motherfucker!



To Schulz’s credit he manages to hit Golgo in the thigh when he’s on his way down. And he brags about it with his last breath. “I guess you know aiming at falling objects isn’t easy,” he says. A fuckin show off to the bitter end.

Golgo does have a sensitive side. When he zeroes in on a drug smuggling diplomat named Polansky (Jerry Ito, MOTHRA) he sees that the guy has a little daughter. And he doesn’t immediately kill her. So that counts as a sensitive side in my opinion compared to what we should expect of him from previous behavior.

He also meets a nice lady who he helps out with some troubles, and she lets him hide out on her houseboat a little bit. That’s where he does self surgery and drops Schulz’s slug into a China bowl (an Asian variation on the cliche that all removed slugs are immediately dropped onto a metal tray).

Golgo is so in control that he sets it up so he can sit out the final act. He lets Smithy and his men storm Polansky’s compound while he just climbs up a mountain, finds a place to hang and just waits around. There’s a whole suspense sequence where Polansky sits in his safe room terrified as the cops take out his security cameras and his screens go fuzzy one by one. But Golgo knows that the guy’s gonna try to escape in a helicopter, he’s figured out its route and he’s placed himself at the right height where he can swing out on a cable and take a shot.

It’s an amazing ending. The guy is flying away, smiling and showing affection to his sweet little daughter, and Golgo puts one right in his forehead. It’s okay! The little girl doesn’t get hurt. She just watches her dad get shot and fall out a helicopter and flip around as he plummets and hits the water. Golgo wouldn’t do any more than that. It wouldn’t be professional.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 at 10:11 am and is filed under Action, Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

11 Responses to “Golgo 13 (1977)”

  1. One Guy from Andromeda

    January 28th, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Sounds awesome, gotta get that. I know another movie called Golgo 13, a very well made, kinda arty action Anime from the 80s, which is also hereby recommended…

  2. From AMERICAN SNIPER to a Japanese sniper, that was very clever.
    I was kind of obsessed with Golgo 13 as a kid: I played the NES games, read what little of the manga was available in English, and yes that 1980s anime with its violence and nudity was forbidden fruit. Sonny Chiba has the right physicality for Duke Togo but he’s a bit too expressive. I would still love to see the first movie with the late Ken Takakura in the title role.

  3. I remember the NES game. I was intrigued by it because it wasn’t the usual side scroller and it varied its gameplay. But it was still way too complicated for me at the time.

  4. Only saw the anime movie that I think this was based off of (or the manga comics maybe). This sounds awesome, will have to check this out!

  5. The Original Paul

    January 29th, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    I love how this site keeps giving me insights into whole other sub-cultures that I had no idea existed.

  6. Never saw the movie, but like many, played the NES game.

    Whose theme immediately came to mind when I read this even though it’s been at least twenty years…


  7. This is a good one, but my favourite non-STREET FIGHTER Chiba flick remains G.I SAMURAI.

  8. I only saw the Anime when it came out on VHS from Manga-Video back in the Nineties.
    It was over the top entertainment back then and it still is. There was this one fight in which he managed to put a grenade into the mouth of the guy which confronts him. He pulls the ring gives him a push and sends him on his journey. Some awesome sniper stuff is in there too. Sending a single bullet straight through four or five skyscrapers right in the middle of this guy which sits in a helicopter at the end of all those buildings. I didn´t know that they made a real movie with Sonny fuckin Chiba as the Golgo 13…but depending on that mindblowing animated feature (and your review of course) it´s a definitiv must-see!

  9. I got this movie as part of a Sonny Chiba collection, which also included GI SAMURAI, a movie about an Army unit transported through time to feudal Japan, so they decide to use their superior military technology to attempt a coup, and BULLET TRAIN a disaster movie he’s not in that much, but I swear seems like its had a number of elements copied from it by HEAT.

  10. GI SAMURAI was more or less remade a few years back as the Korean film HEAVEN’S SOLDIERS. It’s pretty decent, especially if you enjoy seeing dudes with spears getting helplessly machine gunned. And who doesn’t?

  11. Loved the NES game to bits as a kid. I’ve been meaning to watch this for years but could never find it. Which is weird since obscure movies are pretty easy to find here in NYC.

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