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Colt Is My Passport, A
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by Jay Seaver

"Just try quoting that title while waiting in line at customs."
4 stars

The getaway is often the trickiest part of any bit of criminal skulduggery. After all, heists and hits can be planned, but at a certain point, escapes will have to be improvised, and that's where crime pictures stop being just exercises in cinematic cool and start getting suspenseful.

Here, the crime that must be fled is meticulously constructed, but not exactly to the satisfaction of its instigators - the hitman (Jo Shishido) takes all the information about his target's habits an basically concludes that he has to do the deed in the location that is least convenient for his employers. So in addition to the law being after him, he and his sidekick (Jerry Fujio) wind up running from the combined might of two yakuza families. The hitman wants to lie low until he can figure something out, but there's a girl (Chitose Kobayashi) at the truck stop where they're hiding out that Fujio's character has taken a shine to...

A Colt is My Passport is a methodical thriller, the type that spends a lot of time showing just how one might accomplish this sort of assassination. We follow the characters onto rooftops, listen as they discuss the challenges inherent in one approach or another, and feel the tension that comes from knowing what the next step is but also knowing how many assumptions getting to that next step entails. We also get to share in the satisfaction that comes from things getting pulled off right, or that it's somewhat unfair when they aren't.

Not all the details are so exciting, though - the series of meetings and negotiations that result in both the yakuza families that took out the hit and the one whose head was assassinated pooling their resources to find and eliminate the assassin is rather dry. I suppose that those who enjoy mob films more than me will be far more interested, but those scenes really do seem to go on for a long time and pull the action away from the main characters.

Those characters are a fairly amiable bunch; Chitose Kobayashi, for instance, has quite a nice take on the waitress with bigger dreams than her town affords her. Jerry Fujio is quite likable as the younger member of the team who will occasionally make mistakes or hesitate. Shishido, on the other hand, despite his famously chipmunk-cheeked face, is all business. He's not cruel or an automaton, but he's a guy who pretty clearly knows his stuff. He will, of course, have reason to lash out in the end, and that's certainly something to see.

The finale is one of the most memorable scenes of the movie; director Takashi Nomura transplants a showdown out of a western to a modern Japanese beach, with cars, automatic weapons, explosives, and carefully laid traps. It's a crazy scene, straining belief a bit but meticulous enough in its construction for the audience to go along.

Most of the movie hits that balance - a lot of fun detail, but seldom at the expense of muffling the action or making the characters just generic cogs. Yes, it has a bit of a draggy section in the middle, but even that will probably be pretty enjoyable for people who like mob politics.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=16672&reviewer=371
originally posted: 06/10/08 22:48:38
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2007 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2007 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Takashi Nomura

Written by
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Cast
  Jerry Fujio
  Jo Shishido
  Ryotaro Sugi



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