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1 review, 5 user ratings

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Branded to Kill
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by iF Magazine

"There’s a plot, a sad relic of the pre-porn days, but it’s nice and dark."
5 stars

Fans of hyperstyle cinema need not look further than Seijun Suzuki’s blast of nitrous, BRANDED TO KILL. This 1967 Japanese B film – while so delicious to modern sensibilities – was considered such an incomprehensible mess by its studio that they fired Suzuki, but that’s his sob story, not yours. What you get out of the deal is one slick bad ass film that’s smoother then a vodka Martini on a hot Summer's day.

Now there’s a plot, a sad relic of the pre-porn days, but it’s nice and dark.

There’s this guy, Hanada (Jo Shishido and his amazing cheeks) and he’s part of this hierarchy of assassins for hire – in fact he’s No. 3 Killer. When we first meet this guy he’s in the back of a taxi after taking a trip. The driver - an old pal with some problems – wants to get back in the business – the kill’n business- and asks for some work; Hanada agrees.

Their assignment is one of protection and while driving their client to his destination, Hanada finds out just how much his “buddy” has become a pathetic loser – apparently due to booze and broads. Eventually a visually stunning gun battle occurs and the pal takes his final bow. The guy they were supposed to protect proves to be a slicker killer than his two employees. This assignment will not go on Hanada’s resume.

On the way home Hanada’s car breaks down in the rain and he’s picked up by a mysterious women who doesn’t know how to reattach her convertible's roof. This meeting will change Hanada’s life.

The rest of the film details Hanada’s decline as a botched assasination attempt – due in part to the actions of a paper butterfly on a string – makes him a marked man. He winds up loosing his cool, falling victim to broads and booze and eventually meeting up with No. 1 Killer (Koji Nambara) whose gonna kill him. Everything winds up on a suitably nihilistic note.

Now, all this stuff is enhanced by the polish job Suzuki gives this nickel pulp plot. Sure you know the routine – killer loses cool due to fate, liquor and dames – but like a Disney cartoon, it’s not the plot but the presentation, and BRANDED TO KILL, as an extra bonus, boasts no singing candlesticks, crabs or teapots. You will sit spellbound in front of the TV set as Suzuki dazzles with excellent framing, stark B&W photography, jarring cuts and kick-ass slow motion. Make no mistakes, you pop this sucker in at a Frat house you’ll be king of cool all day – maybe they won’t even haze you.

So now that you have BRANDED TO KILL, available on DVD, what do you have to look forward to in ways of perks?

Well first off, the film is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen – which is what you want ‘cause Suzuki has no qualms about filling the frame. Then you’ve got removable English subtitles so you can understand what’s going on if you don’t speak Japanese. Next, the guy who wrote the liner notes, John Zorn, has supplied a bunch of posters from a bunch of Japanese films in the same basic genre – include a few for BRANDED TO KILL. Finally there is a subtitled interview with Suzuki himself who seems to be of the belief that his films are just meant as entertainment and that all he was trying to do was make the most entertaining film possible. Well if that was the goal, then the guy sure as hell succeeded.

It's a thoroughly entertaining film that ranks up there with SWORD OF DOOM and SANJURO.--Andrew Hershberger

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originally posted: 02/25/01 12:45:34
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User Comments

7/10/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess I have idea what the hell this movie is about, but I liked it 4 stars
10/22/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 5 stars
12/10/03 sweetbottom A true classic of style from a tim enever to be relived 5 stars
5/05/03 Bluto McBlurt Fantastic stuff, style, style, style. 5 stars
4/14/02 Vivek Gopal great film techniques but not for popular consumption 4 stars
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