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Branded to Kill (1967)


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I know this is foreign language but I like putting the gangster films into this category.  This is my FIRST Japanese film and my first Yakuza film.  I had a feeling this was gonna be gritty and it didn't disappoint in that  area.  My experience with the French gangster/noir films lead me to believe the Yakuza films would be gritter than the American films also.  Branded to Kill is a hitman film directed by Seijun Suzuki ( more on him later) with Joe Shishido starring as the hitman Goro Hanada.  The hitmen in Japan have a ranking system.  Hanado is ranked 4. Isao Tamagawa plays Michihiko Yabura, the Yakuza boss who hires Hanado to escort a client to a destination.  Hanado is joined by cab driver Gihei Kasuga ( Hiroshi Minami) who himself was a former hitman but lost his nerve on a mission and took to drinking.  He is trying to redeem himself with this mission.  The plot thens goes off in a few different directions which I will not divulge to afford spoilers.  I will say that the plot involves some well, DIFFERENT plot devices which can leave you confused.

Remember I said this was directed by Seijun Suzuki?   Suzuki was a contract director hired to make this film for Nikkatsu ( which I found out is the oldest Japanese film studio.)  Nikkatsu already had experience with Suzuki and found him to be eccentric and ordered him to make a straight gangster film.  Suzuki did the opposite and literally got fired for making the film which resulted in him later suing Nikkatsu and winning but was blacklisted in Japan for a while by the film industry.  Among the many things Suzuki employed in the film was a extensive use of Jump Cuts. If you are not paying attention you can lose track of whats going on.

This is the first film that I can look at and say that I agree with the studio for firing him.........THEN, at the same time I say they are wrong because the film is a masterpiece.  Its garbage and a masterpiece at the same time, if thats possible, lol.  Suzuki doesn't use storyboards and impliments most of his script ideas on the fly during filming.  He also encourages input from others.  It shows because the film looks like two or three different films meshed together.  The thing is, after a initial theatrical release in which the film bombed, big time, its now considered a cult classic and a masterpiece, influencing such directors as Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch.  I agree that its a masterpiece and is a must watch for fans of gangster films.

I rank it a shaky 9.5 out of 10...  It can be purchased from Criterion.  I screened it on Amazon Prime.


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