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Branded to Kill
BLU-RAY disk
01.18.2012 By: Mathew Plale
Branded to Kill order
Director:
Seijun Suzuki

Actors:
Joe Shishido
Annu Mari
Koji Nanbara

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After botching a job, Yazuka hitman Goro (Shishido) finds himself on the wrong side of a sexy femme fatale (Mari) and a higher-ranked assassin (Nanbara)
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
The killers in Branded to Kill keep track of their rankings like sports analysts do with draft picks. Goro Hanada (the chipmunk-cheeked Joe Shishido) is #3.

The most routine of jobs--escorting a client from A to B--goes awry and #2, among others, is gunned down. Before the gunfire ends, Goro and the audience immediately wonder, Who and where is #1?

Soon after the ambush, sexy young femme fatale Misako (Annu Mari) hires Goro to snipe a foreigner. The job is botched when a butterfly settles itself on the gun, sending Goro’s finger to the trigger and the bullet into the wrong body. It seems no coincide that Misako’s apartment is decorated with dead butterflies.

There are many strange elements to these characters and scenarios, adding tones of irrationality and surrealism to the film. Take Goro, whose libido surges at the smell of rice. When Goro demands his wife “boil some rice,” it’s not quite as perverted as Marlon Brando’s request to Maria Schneider to “get the butter,” but it does lead to a charged, excitable sex scene. And when Goro finally meets #1, the rivals agree to link themselves together to keep an eye on one another. Their idea--toilet humor and all (one is forced to wet himself when the other refuses to accompany him to the bathroom)--has leant itself to many bad ‘80s and ‘90s sitcoms.

Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill happily plays on noir, slapstick and sports movies, just as Tokyo Drifter, released one year prior, did on western, noir and the pop art movement. It was this work that got Suzuki fired from Nikkatsu and blacklisted for a decade. It’s hard not to argue that it was worth it.
THE EXTRAS
Seijun Suzuki and Masami Kuzuu (12:10): In this interview, recorded in 2011, director Suzuki and assistant director Kuzuu reflect on the production of Branded to Kill.

Joe Shishido (10:57): In this highly entertaining interview, star Shishido discusses his trademark cheeks and working with Suzuki, who he also collaborated with on Youth of the Beast and Gates of Flesh, among others.

Seijun Suzuki (14:06): This 1997 interview was recorded during a Suzuki retrospective by the Japanese Foundation and the Los Angeles Filmforum.

Trailer

Also included with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a 16-page booklet featuring an essay titled “Reductio and Absurdum: Suzuki Seijun’s Branded to Kill” by critic and historian Tony Rayns.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
An essential of the Japanese New Wave, Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill is a memorable blend of noir, comedy and the surreal. As with the new Tokyo Drifter Blu-ray, The Criterion Collection has done a remarkable job in upgrading the 1999 DVD of Branded to Kill, adding interviews (including a must-see one with star Joe Shishido) and presenting clear high-definition video and audio transfers.
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