Archive for April 22nd, 2012

Sonny Chiba is Duke Togo aka Golgo 13, the world’s most feared assassin. Togo is given a task by the underworld to snuff out renegade HK drug lord Chow Liu Fong who’s masquerading as a businessman. Three previous assassins have tried to take him out but failed so when you want a job properly done you go and ask for the best and that’s why they’ve asked for Golgo 13. Everything seems to be according to plan for him and his target is in his sights during a ceremony to open a pool but just as he’s about to pull the trigger somebody else does it for him. A female assassin no less. The police led by a determined cop named Smithy are convinced that Golgo 13 is behind the murder and promptly arrest him but with no evidence they have to let him go. Golgo 13 is now on a mission to find out who’s behind Chow’s murder and the evidence points to a Mr Polanski, a diplomat for the country of Porania. Polanski has sealed a deal with the FBI to name and shame major drug dealers and in return will be granted asylum in the US. Golgo 13 will not rest until his task is complete and plans to take out Polanski before he gets the chance to leave Hong Kong.

Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment is a gritty grindhouse movie, typical of 70’s Japanese cinema and Sonny Chiba by the time this movie came out had settled into a rather stereotypical role handed to him by various filmmakers – that of a tough uncompromising man. It’s not his best movie but if you’re a die-hard fan you should find plenty to entertain you here. You’ll certainly have to suspend your disbelief at some of the things that goes on – for example Golgo 13 must be one hell of a shot to shoot his target on a helicopter in flight whilst dangling from a cliff! Apparently this kind of absurdness is typical of the director Yukio Noda and you’ll find more than one such sequence in this movie. The story trundles along at a brisk pace full of exciting shootouts and bone breaking martial arts mayhem. There’s a fair bit of nudity on offer too courtesy of the delightful and sultry actress Dana. You would not be wrong to think that there’s a kind of a James Bond like feeling to this movie as the story takes us to several countries and is not just content to stay in Hong Kong. Miami, Kyoto and Macao are several of the globe trotting locations on show though going to these places doesn’t really advance the plot one bit.

Sonny Chiba delivers a solid performance as Golgo 13, a paranoid individual who expects to get attacked by anybody at any moment. He matches the image of the cool anti-hero assassin in the manga and was probably the perfect choice to play the role. The character of Golgo 13 hardly smiles, has a stony expression and snarls his way through the movie. Whenever he goes, death and violence seems to follow him such as when he helps a young woman who kills her violent boyfriend in a sidestreet. He rescues her from the police and then from her boyfriend’s gang who’s out to get her. This comes in handy for Golgo 13 later when he’s shot in the leg during a sequence in a car junkyard. She repays his kindness by helping him treat his leg on her boat.

OK, so the plot of the movie may be thin but then again what we’ve really come to see is Sonny Chiba doing what he does best – kick some serious ass and this he does in spades in the movie’s fight scenes which are very violent (witness Golgo 13 stabbing a man in the mouth with a knife!). A great foot chase sequence sees Chiba going on top of a moving bus that will remind viewers of something that Jackie Chan would do years later to better effect in Police Story 2. Unlike JC, he doesn’t go through a window but grabs a passing pole and swings down to safety below.

This could have been a lot better than what it turned out to be but it’s still a rather good action movie thanks to the presence of Sonny Chiba. I’m sure this movie would have been a damp squib without him.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Moshidora The Movie (2011)

AKA Drucker In The Dug-Out

When her best friend Yuki is hospitalised with an illness, high school girl Minami Kawashima helps her out by taking over her job temporarily as manager of Hodokubo High School’s baseball team. The team has many talented players but they’re indisciplined and chronic underachievers. Minami goes to a bookstore to buy a book on management to aid her in her task and is recommended to get Peter Drucker’s Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices book which has suddenly become popular in Japan. She begins to implement some of the strategies in the book in order to turn the team around as Minami has set a goal to get the team into the Koshien National Championships. As the team begins to make progress and team members start to trust each other out in the field, Yuki’s health deterioates and Minami is told the truth about her condition. Will Minami’s dream of reaching the Koshien National Championships come true?

Appealing to both AKB48 and baseball fans, this movie about a young teeange girl managing a baseball team was rather good and much better than I expected it to be. Considering that this was Atsuko Maeda’s first time in a leading movie role she did pretty well, however the role as Minami perhaps should have gone to the person that the character was based upon – her AKB48 colleague and co-star in this movie Minami Minegishi. But being that Maeda is very popular and would attract more fans to watch the movie, the filmmakers decided to give her the lead rather than Minegishi. The fact that people that have watched the movie and commented that Minegishi acts better than Maeda has not gone unnoticed in many circles. But on saying that, Maeda has actually won awards for her acting in this movie which has surprised even me. I think the main fault with Maeda’s acting is she can’t seem to express emotions that well but overall she quite a good young actress. There’s definitely room for improvement from her and that will come over time. With her impending graduation from AKB48 looming on the horizon, there’s no doubt that Maeda will get many movie roles soon so we’ll be able to see in the future if she’ll be able to grow as an actress.

The plot of Moshidora is nothing you haven’t seen before in sports movies – the usual zeroes to heroes scenario. It’s a charming enough movie with likeable characters and it does get you involved in willing the team to victory. I guess some people might be put off thinking that this is some kind of idol movie with 2 AKB48 members in the leading roles and some of their music is used in the soundtrack but it’s not. The director makes sure that the movie isn’t focused purely on Maeda’s character but on the overall baseball team and the implementation of strategies from Drucker’s book.

Whilst Moshidora doesn’t break any new ground in the sports genre, it’s still an interesting movie which I rather liked.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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