Based on Takao Saitou’s long-running Golgo 13 manga, Golgo 13: The Professional was originally released in Japan in 1983. The film was directed by the late Osamu Dezaki. Dezaki, who was best known for directing a variety of classic anime, including Rose of Versailles, Space Cobra, and Ashita No Joe. Art direction was handled by Shichirou Kobayashi, who also worked as an art director for Berserk, Detroit Metal City, and Revolutionary Girl Utena. The film’s soundtrack was composed by Toshiyuki Omori, who created the soundtracks for the Dirty Pair OVA’s, Shaman King, and Amagami SS.
In America, 65-year-old oil baron Leonard Dawson enjoys a life of wealth and success built upon the power of his overarching company, but the time has come for him to retire and hand down the business to his son Robert. However, during Robert’s inauguration ceremony, he is sniped and killed by none other than the (in) famous assassin Duke Togo (aka Golgo 13). Dawson then begins his descent into madness, throwing away his morals in the name of avenging his son. Meanwhile, after dealing with the Italian crime boss Dr. Z., Golgo’s informant is killed by the genetically-modified assassin Snake, sent to Italy as part of Dawson’s revenge. From that moment on, Golgo must deal with Dawson’s conglomerate of killers: including the CIA, FBI, U.S. army, and two convicts (resembling Jagi from Fist of the North Star and a robotic version of Oscar from Rose of Versailles) who survived a battle royale with mercenaries in the South American jungle.
At first, the story in Golgo 13: The Professional starts off a bit erratic, trying to establish the gist of Golgo’s character, which is composed of doling out calculated headshots and expressionlessly boning women. Then we get to the Dr. Z plot, which can catch viewers off guard into thinking it constitutes the majority of the film. While the Dr. Z plot does transition into the main story rather quickly, this decision felt rather odd since this section seemed divorced from the rest of the film. Fortunately, it’s only a momentary incident.
I was intrigued by the plot structure of The Professional, since much of the focus was on the consequences of Robert’s assassination, rather than the circumstances leading up to the killing. Prior to watching The Professional, my only prior exposure to the Golgo franchise was the 2008 anime, where most of the episodes center on how Golgo handles his clients’ requests. The change in formula in The Professional turned the typical Golgo plot into more of an action-focused creation, where we get to see Golgo go all out with his fighting prowess, and watch him punch and shoot his way through all the crap that gets thrown at him. It puts Golgo in an interesting position that we would only see glances of in the 2008 anime.
TMS Entertainment’s animation work in The Professional is fantastic. The Professional is detailed and fluid from the start, with early scenes of Cindy taking a skinny dip and swimming underwater to the later scenes of chaos and shit blowing up. There’s as many close-up’s screen cuts in the sex scenes as there are on Golgo preparing his trusty rifle for a headshot. At times, however, Osamu Dezaki went with some odd psychedelic shots as stylization points. The most notable being the scene when Golgo finds his dying informant in Italy, and the scene suddenly cuts to the informant’s body swinging in his chair erratically while the background is replaced by clocks. These scenes feel rather odd and needless, since The Professional isn’t exactly trying to be an art experiment. On another note, I found out The Professional was one of the first attempts at utilizing CGI in animation, and boy does it show. One particular scene involves Golgo making his way up a skyscraper while getting shot at by helicopters. The scene pans out over a CGI city, which looks hilariously bad by today’s standards, and ends up unintentionally making the scene distracting. In the end, though, despite these hiccups, The Professional looks quite…professional as a whole.
Pros: Bitchin’ opening sequence with a catchy song. Animation is wonderful and detailed, from the character designs themselves to movements during action sequences. The main plot’s focus on the consequences of Robert’s assassination rather than the circumstances leading up to it is an interesting twist on the typical Golgo formula.
Cons: Some of the psychedelic/strobe animation effects are distracting. A dated CGI helicopter sequence during a certain intense action scene becomes distracting and laughable. Snake as a character feels too much like a misplaced Yoshiaki Kawajiri character (think of the antagonists from Ninja Scroll) and seems out of place in the setting. The reveal at the end regarding Robert’s death is rather cheap and left me feeling cheated.
Golgo 13: The Professional is licensed in the U.S. by Diskotek Media, as you would expect from this year’s Discotek Month. Golgo 13: The Professional is a fun action film that effectively breaks away from the typical Golgo 13 story mold, makes for an interesting plot. The film is an entertaining, well-animated action flick overall, and definitely worth a watch.