ASIAN FILM - Review
12:00 - 23rd August 2014, by Calum Waddell

Branded to Kill

This scorching yakuza shocker from director Seijun Suzuki is, rightly, seen as one of the greatest Japanese films of all time. Influencing everything from Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994) to the vengeance trilogy of Korea’s Park Chan-wook, this story of rivalry between Tokyo’s top hit-men is thoroughly gripping. Leading the cast is veteran thespian Joe Shishido – expertly essaying the mousy-faced but outwardly cool, if sour-tempered, Hanada – Japan’s ‘number three’ bounty hunter (who, in an oddly endearing personality trait, is aroused by the smell of boiled rice!). When Hanada agrees to take out a beautiful young woman called Misako (Annu Mari), only to fumble the job at hand, he becomes the target of another killer-for-hire – leading to a showdown that ranks up there with the finest bullet ballets of the era.

With its avant-garde visual approach, and its still-shocking onscreen theatrics (the narrative may demand identification with Hanada, but he is a perverse, sexually frustrated, girlfriend-beating misogynist), Branded to Kill still feels remarkably daring. Perhaps the true lineage of the film, at least in its own country, is in the nightmarish gangster visions of Takeshi Kitano – most notably Boiling Point (1990). For fans of this infamous thriller – and even the more recent Sion Sono masterwork Cold Fish (2010) – Branded to Kill comes with an especially high recommendation. An influential, and exhaustively staged, pulp pot-boiler – this is one of the hardest hitting, and most inventive, genre outings from the glory days of Japanese cinema.

Brutal but brilliant, Branded to Kill is unlikely to ever lose its status as a cinematic masterpiece.
SCORE: 5/5
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