Gogol 13: Kowloon Assignment stars 1970’s martial arts superstar Sonny Chiba as Duke Togo; codename Golgo 13. The name is derived from the 13th man who gave the crown of thorns to Jesus Christ, and drove him to his death on Golgotha Hill. Not a cheery moniker. Golgo 13 first appeared in a popular Manga comic written by Takao Saito.
Golgo 13 first appears in this film on a boat off the coast of Miami. A mobster, Rocky Brown is waiting for him as Golgo scuba dives up to the boat and unobtrusively slips on board. Brown employs Golgo 13 to go to Hong Kong and kill the syndicate’s top man, Chou Lei Feng (Nick Lam Wai Kei). (As an adjunct, I have seen trailers for this film that refer to Chou as ‘Raiho Shu’, which leads me to believe that there may be multiple versions of this film released with different character names…for the purposes of this review, I will refer to him as Chou.) It appears that Chou has been going out on his own, and the syndicate are not happy about it. And they haven’t been for some time. It transpires that Golgo is the fourth assassin they have sent to eliminate Chou. All of the others have been found dead, floating in Hong Kong Harbour.
Back in Hong Kong, Captain Sminny (Callan Leung) is clamping down on illegal drugs, and he too is after Chou. But Chou poses as a successful Hong Kong businessman and generous philanthropist to boot. Sminny’s relentless attempts to arrest Chou are thwarted by his seniors who do not want to stir the pot. But Sminny puts in place a female agent, Lin-Li to watch Chou. Lin-Li does her job well and follows Chou to his secret drug laboratory, and for her trouble she is shot in the shoulder and captured.
Golgo 13 arrives in Hong Kong and quickly tracks down Chou. One evening outside one of Chou’s nightclubs, Golgo witnesses a young girl, pulling a pistol and shooting her pimp. Golgo tries to remain on the periphery but the pimp, belonged to of Chou’s crew, and a gang of hoodlums come after the girl. Golgo is reticent to help, but in the end, he comes to the aid of the girl and despatches the gang in quite physical and violent ways. Unfortunately for Golgo, this alerts Chou to the fact that another assassin in town.
Captain Sminny tracks down Lin-Li to Chou’s laboratory and an armed fight breaks out between Chou’s men and the police. Lin-Li is killed and a seld destruct switch is activated at the laboratory. The building explodes, and all of Sminny’s evidence goes up in flames.
As mentioned earlier, Chou is a great benefactor to the city of Hong Kong, and he has just donated a public pool. During the elaborate opening ceremony, Golgo 13 takes a rooftop position on a highrise overlooking the new pool. As he takes aim with his sniper’s rifle a shot rings out, and Chou falls into the pool, dead. Golgo quickly looks around with his scope, and sees a blonde woman running from the scene with a pistol. She has beaten Golgo 13 to the kill. But now, the police and the underworld are all after Golgo 13.
Naturally enough, Chou wasn’t the true head of the crime syndicate. He was just a high powered underling, and Golgo 13 has to race against Captain Sminny to find out the truth, complete his mission – remove the head of the Hong Kong syndicate – and most of all stay alive. The film is fast paced and moves from Miami to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Kyoto and Macao, without raising a sweat.
As with all of the Golgo 13 films, this is quite violent, but compared to the animated features that were to follow, this film is relatively tame. …And notice how Golgo 13 recovers from a bullet wound the size of a golfball in his thigh. In the next scene we see him in some swimming gear and their isn’t even a scar. This guy is tough, and this film is a great slice of funky seventies action. The music is great; funky jazz, featuring bongos and flute. And the clothes are unbelievable. Some of the striped suits that Golgo 13 wears have got to be seen to be believed. My favourite is the white Safari suit that he wears during a chase through the streets of Hong Kong.
It could be argued the Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment isn’t a spy film, and I would have to agree with you. It’s probably more of a mafia crime film. It is the nature of the person who employs Golgo 13, and his intended target, that denotes whether it falls into the espionage or crime category. I have included it here as a companion piece to the two other Golgo 13 films I have reviewed, which I believe fall into the espionage genre.