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So cool Jarmusch ripped it off
charlietuna17 June 2001
Seijun Suzuki refers to his films as "entertainment" and without critical merit. Yet, this was somewhat tongue in cheek as he stated that critics feel a movie must have a "moral or some social commentary" to be worthy of attention. Be that as it may, "Branded to Kill" is simply a fantastic achievement. Suzuki was working with both a lead man and a script provided to him by the Nikkatsu Corporation. As such, when you evaluate his films, you do so by focusing on the technical merits. Personally, I find his disconnected editing, and surreal lighting styles to be amazing. Suzuki's skill turns what is otherwise a laughable boiler plate film noir into something more. The lighting and editing make the exclamations that the script doesn't, and the decision to shoot the final scene in a boxing ring is brilliant.

It was entertaining to watch person after person jump up and down about the originality of "Ghost Dog" with no mention of the fact that Jarmusch lifted one of the assassination sequences unchanged from "Branded to Kill". Hopefully as more of Suzuki's work comes to DVD, people and critics alike will recognize a blatant tribute when it is given. Suzuki deserves them all.
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Dazzling if disorienting crime film packed with goofy quirks - just don't try to make sense of it
J. Spurlin2 June 2010
The number-three-ranked hit-man (who makes these rankings?), with a fetish for sniffing boiling rice, fumbles his latest job, which puts him into conflict with a mysterious woman whose death wish inspires her to surround herself with dead butterflies and dead birds. Worse danger comes from his own treacherous wife and finally with the number-one-ranked hit-man, known only as a phantom to those who fear his unseen presence. Number One proves to be a nut, willing to go to great lengths to torment his victim, even sleep in the same bed with him. He's also so dedicated to his job that he'll urinate on himself rather than take his eyes off his victim by going to the toilet.

I'm getting used to the idea of a certain type of crime film that is so densely plotted you never quite know what's going on and are forced to give up on it in order to enjoy the picture. American films of this type, such as "The Maltese Falcon," are usually so deftly put together that you don't realize you haven't followed everything until you stop to think about it. Other countries produce films that require a bit more patience. I recently watched the French gangster pic, "Le Doulos" (1962), and learned early to resign myself to semi-confusion.

This film, from the nutty Japanese director, Seijun Suzuki, requires a extra level of resignation. Often I couldn't tell what was happening from shot to shot. Suzuki's disorienting style is sometimes marvelous and sometimes irritating; but I can't say I was ever bored. Many of the effects in this sex-and-violence-packed film are dazzling. I especially liked how the femme fatale, in her early close-ups, is perpetually drenched by a downpour whether she's out in the rain or not.

I enjoyed this film, but any viewer can be forgiven for giving up on it and saying, "I don't get it." There's no deep meaning to get. You either abandon yourself to the goofy entertainment being offered, or you don't.
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Gonzo crime-thriller astonishingly directed by Seijun Suzuki
pooch-83 August 1999
A bizarre yakuza flick with a taste for over-the-top visuals and modern stylistics, Branded to Kill follows the strange day-to-day existence of an expert hit-man who carries out his orders with steely determination and impassive cool. All hell breaks loose, however, when a butterfly alighting on his rifle scope results in a botched job -- and a death sentence for the screw-up. Joe Shishido, with his collagen-enhanced cheekbones, makes a terrific anti-hero whose unusual quirks (Suzuki reasoned that a man obsessed with the scent of warm rice would signal to audiences that this guy was quintessentially Japanese) instantly endear him to newly-made fans. Branded to Kill is wild fun, and has been favorably and frequently compared to the work of artists as different as John Woo and David Lynch -- which makes it all the more exhilarating when you realize it was made in 1967.
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Trapped in a dead-end job? No hope for advancement? At least you're not addicted to the smell of rice.
Ham_and_Egger25 July 2005
Rice-sniffing, #3 Killer, dead butterflies, snuff films. Where to start? 'Koroshi no rakuin' is a surreal, Kafkaesque, timewarp of a film masquerading as a stylish 60's hit-man movie. Nikkatsu Studios fired Seijun Suzuki over this film's "incomprehensibility."

Suzuki is an auteur of the highest magnitude, nobody has ever used a widescreen, black and white, "Nikkatsu Scope" frame quite like him. The dense and beautifully chaotic images are overwhelming on your first viewing, it's the sort of movie that shows you something new every time you watch it.

Essentially Hanado Goro (Jo Shisido) is the yakuza's #3 Killer, but he desperately wants to be #1. As might be expected, being a hired gun is a stressful life and Hanado takes the edge off with lots of sex and the smell of boiling rice. The sex gets him embroiled in some sort of a plot and he finds himself getting much better acquainted with #1 Killer than he'd ever wanted to be.

Time backs up, swirls around, restarts, slows down. Major themes include, but are not limited to: ambition, lust, rivalry, bureaucracy, addiction, loss of self-control. There's a certain parallel in that with this picture Suzuki derailed his own career as a "salary man" making Nikkatsu yakuza flicks, many of Hanado's thoughts and impulses must have been the director's own.
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Suzuki dispenses with narrative convention in this acid-jazz noir-ish nightmare
chaos-rampant26 May 2008
Much has been made of how weird and off-beat Branded to Kill is. However it is important to consider it as part of Suzuki's progression through film-making. Before you can break the rules, you have to master them. Suzuki did so in several of his earlier pictures, from Underworld Beauty to Tattooed Life. And every time he was called to deliver a run of the mill yakuza flick, he infused it with his personal style. More and more he fractured the visual language of cinema every time, until he got rid of it or transformed it into a psychotic beast for Branded to Kill, revealing what lies beneath.

A plot synopsis would read something like this: Jo Shishido is killer Number #3 with ambitions of becoming Number #1. Who is Number #1? Does he even exist? That is until he's called to transport a client safely. The borders between realism and surrealism blur hopelessly at that point and what follows is a nightmarish concoction of beautiful set-pieces that lead up to his final confrontation with Number #1.

Saying that Branded to Kill is weird is an understatement. In turns fascinating, confusing, nonsensical, surrealist, psychotic, thrilling, poetic, nightmarish, confusing, tiring, mind-numbing and exhilarating, it defies description as much as it defies sense. The boundaries of time, space and logic are blurred and all you can do is experience the ride. It doesn't try to make much sense and apparently Suzuki made it up as he went along. The result was to be fired by Nikkatsu Studios for delivering a picture that "made no sense". I don't blame them really. Studios are businesses and Branded to Kill is not a movie with massive appeal. Ahead of its time in that aspect.

Filmed in beautiful black and white, with a languid jazzy score and a film-noir ambiance, Branded to Kill will certainly appeal to people with strange tastes. Don't go in expecting a yakuza action flick (although there are several gunfights and enough action to go along) or you'll be sorely disappointed. As an indication of the uncharted territories Branded to Kill's treads, I'll guesstimate that fans of Eraserhead-era Lynch, Koji Wakamatsu and Singapore Sling's style will appreciate it. I can't say "like it", because ultimately that's between the viewer and Branded to Kill to sort. Either way, it has to be experienced at least once. Just sit back and let the surreal absurdity of it all wash over you...
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Weirdest Japanese Movie of 1967
Jerry-9312 April 2003
Wow, I thought the Japanese turned out some weird stuff nowadays. That lame crap has nothing on this wacky thing, which requires about 57 viewings to make any kind of narrative sense.

Jo Shishido (who has cheek implants (!!) that make him look like a chipmunk) is the third best killer in Japan. Apparently, all assassins in Japan do, other than kill people, is try to better themselves in the rankings. It's much like Pokemon, in a way. Jo strives to be number one, but, not only does he have to get past a bunch of backstabbers, he has to find the #1 Phantom, the high man on the totem. And when he does, it's rip roarin' nonsense time!

It's hard to tell if this is a work of genius or of pure insanity. There's no real narrative; more like a bunch of scenes held together by the fact they're all in the same movie. Some of the stuff is so nutty, it's hard not to call it brilliant, like when Jo finally does meet Phantom and they have a sit-down, Phantom pisses his pants rather than get up and take his eyes off Jo. Or the hit that gets foiled by a butterfly. Or Jo's girlfriend's obsession with dead bugs, which lay in piles on the floor. Or the shocking amount of sex and violence in a movie made in 1967. It's really no surprise that the director had his contract summarily terminated when the studio watched this: it is the weirdest movie to come out of Japan in 1967. Or maybe ever. Be prepared to watch more than once.
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Number One With a Bullet
sisteray1 December 2000
While the British were playing the psychedelic numbers game with "The Prisoner," 1967 brought the Japanese Seijun Suzuki's "Branded to Kill." This story of a hit-man reduced to a number leads a cold killer through a surreal journey to his humanity. As the movie reveals emotions to the main character, he is struggling with his past, and is pitted against the mysterious #1.

This movie, outside of being visually stunning, is exceptional in how it explores emotions versus purpose. It beautifully juxtaposes the drive for a career, its duty and its devastation, against the desire for love and the weakness of human nature. "Branded to Kill" meshes the beauty of the film noir shadows with a surrealism laid on the foundations of Luis Bunuel. This hardboiled tail meshes dark shots with cut outs and overlays, as if a the Yakuza were shot by Man Ray.

Thankfully most of Suzuki's films have been released on video. Now he may achieve the respect and notoriety that he has earned.
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A work of art by master director Seijun Suzuki
Pycal22 June 2005
Branded to Kill is by far Suzuki's best film. It is my personal favorite crime film. Joe Shishido in his role as Hanada Goro, with his dark black sunglasses and Mauser M712 is one of the coolest characters ever created. The movie has everything, violence, shootouts, car chases, sex, and much much more. The film would likely have been shot in color, however Seijun Suzuki was prohibited from shooting in color due his wild use of colors in past films. The film is still a work of art, and looks beautiful in black and white. The best way I can describe this film is maybe a cross between Alfred Hitchcock and Sergio Leone. An excellent crime thriller not to be missed.
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Suave killer, distortion of space and time
seventyblue1 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
After viewing Seijin Suzuki I thought, "This guy violates the classic narrative rules of space, time and hell, motivation. And it's so damn hip." The sex scenes are a wonderful example of this phenominon; Hanada and his wife are having sex. Sometimes Hanada is sniffing rice, sometimes they're making love on the stairs, sometimes his wife is complaining about how Hanada's only sweet to her when they're in bed, then they're back to making love. They could have been in that house procreating for five minutes, they could have been at it for weeks. The location shifts so much from shot to shot that the experience of time becomes altered, and it adds a lot to the quirky hip atmosphere of the film.

Instead of letting information sink in Suzuki just keeps the ball rolling with the character developement and the plot progression. There's a scene where Harada has to kill three people in different parts of the city and not five minutes later they're all dead. No lengthy exposition, no set up, no explaination, just plot point and resolution in such quick sucession that I got the feeling that these scenes weren't important at all. I could have seen Harada shopping and while it wouldn't have been as exciting, I get the sense that shopping would have the same effect as assassination on Harada's character.

Not that Harada's entirely heartless. It's just all part of the style of "Branded to Kill."
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There's some good stuff here, somewhere. It's just hard to sort out.
JesusPlayingGolf14 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is the story of a Japanese hit-man, No. 3 Killer. He really loves the smell of boiling rice, for some reason. I have no idea what that means, but I feel it should be mentioned as Suzuki inserts this fetish into just about every other scene. Anyway, the usually reliable No. 3 (I would assume anyway, considering he ranks third in what is bound to be a pretty difficult business) botches an assassination attempt when a butterfly lands on the barrel of his sniper rifle, obscuring the view of his target. Because of this he becomes the target of the famed No. 1 Killer. No. 1 decides to toy with his prey first, going so far as to move in No. 3 providing just about the only entertainment in the film.

Suzuki hurtles the story through space and time at an incredibly brisk pace (particularly in the first half hour), often refusing to take the time to set up locations and situations, causing a rather confusing sense of geography for many scenes. The action takes place in a similarly disjointed manner. Sometimes things happen so quickly, they seem like the filmic equivalent of run-on sentences. Or, perhaps a better way to put it would be that Suzuki is that guy we all know who tells stories too fast, jumping over and skipping around some of the small details, the little ones that help the story make sense. Perhaps, in a way, Suzuki is not interested in perpetuating the illusion of the motion picture and wants us to remember that we are just watching a movie. I personally think he's just being lazy. Though, he does seem to have some sense of composition, sometimes creating fantastic images. But just as often his use of blocking becomes irritating.

Eventually, Suzuki slows down a bit and begins to construct something interesting. Hell, when No. 1 moves in with No. 3 it becomes damn entertaining. But, by then, it is far too little, far too late.
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A yakuza gunman seeks the seemingly unobtainable rank of No. 1 killer in what is the finest Japanese Movie of the 1960's!
bamptonj8 March 2001
Man, why are those late 60's / early 70's criminal movies so fantastically good? I guess it must have something to do with those old saturated film stocks. If only Kodachrome would muster the courage to bring back what brought us the those classics: Dirty Harry, Bullitt, The Getaway etc.

Or then again, maybe it was just the period in which these movies were made. The hippie era did, as it would appears produced a surprisingly good number of film titles. Comparatively, Branded to Kill reminds one distinctively in style to John Boorman's film of the same year, POINT BLANK, both in choice of film stock and composition of photography, but aside from this the films are completely different. Branded to Kill tells the story of a yakuza hitman (with a penchant for fast woman and inhaling "rice steam") who seeks the desirable title of #1 gunman. But of course, it's not going to be that easy...
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Stunningly stylish and original!
Infofreak17 September 2002
Seijun's Suzuki's earlier cult classic 'Tokyo Drifter' knocked my socks off, but 'Branded To Kill' unbelievably manages to top it! This is one of the most stunning and original movies I have ever seen in my life, and I have seen hundreds. Suzuki is a true original. I can't think of a direct Western equivalent for him. Visually stylish and surreal, he lets his imagery do the talking. Imagine vintage David Lynch directing Beat Takeshi and you're halfway there. It's nearly impossible to put into words just what is so amazing about this movie. It literally has to be seen to be believed! With these two movies made over thirty five years ago Suzuki still shows himself to be light years ahead of the current crop of overrated and overhyped Hollywood "visionaries" Fincher, Soderbergh, Shyamalan, et al. Whatever you do you MUST see this movie! Be prepared to have your mind slowly blown into little pieces...
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Stylish AND stupid at the same time!
MartinHafer19 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I noticed that all the reviewers liked this movie--and some absolutely adored it. I guess I'll be the dissenting voice, as I thought that a movie that tries so hard to be weird and incomprehensible is not worth my trouble. After all, several admitted that the narrative made little sense and the movie needed to be seen repeatedly in order to fully understand it. I say "why bother". If I cannot understand a movie and am confused by it, my first instinct is NOT to see it again! In many ways, this film looks almost as if Jean-Luc Godard took drugs, went to Japan and made a film. And if you like this sort of bizarre fare, then by all means watch it. I just want a film that makes some sense!

The film is about an assassin who looks like a giant hamster because of his freakish looking cheeks (Jô Shishido--who actually paid to have plastic surgery to give his this look). He is somehow considered the #3 assassin in Japan, though I didn't realize that there was any sort of a ranking organization (maybe this is like the BCI and American college football). He wants to be #1 and much of the film shows him on various assignments killing people. Some of this is pretty neat and stylish, some of this is just strange. When he's not out killing people to improve his standings, he's at home have very, very intense and super-athletic sex with his wife.

A pretty young Japanese lady with a big nose hires Mr. #3 to do an almost impossible assassination. When it fails, the film gets really goofy, as first his wife tries to kill him, then the big-nosed lady does. None of this has any sort of a linear or comprehensible narrative and you wonder if the film makers were on crack or schizophrenic.

Throughout the film there are lots of bizarre fetish-like flourishes. There are lots of small dead birds--and they keep appearing throughout the film. One even has a needle through its neck. I sure felt sorry for the creatures--why killing them was necessary, I don't know. Also, Mr. #3 also had a weird fetish for the smell of boiling rice.

Later, the wife returns and wonders why Mr. #3 is upset that she tried to kill her. All is apparently forgiven--that is until he knocks her down and urinates on her (at least that APPEARS to be what he's doing). She then spills the beans about some dumb plot and begins to cry in a very annoying fashion (I wanted to kill her at this point). Moments later, her clothes are off and she's begging him to do her--at which point he blows her away (I mean he kills her) and you see her head in the toilet. Nothing like a good romance, huh?! Even later, Mr. #3 finds the big-nosed lady dead along with film showing how she died. I think it's supposed to be touching and Mr. #3 cried a lot--though I had absolutely no idea why. Didn't she try to kill him ten minutes earlier?! At this point, Mr. #3 gets a call from what might be Mr. #1. He issues him a challenge and somehow Mr. #3 manages to kill everyone waiting for him at some place near the harbor. But, Mr. #1 is not there! Mr. #1 then phones to say he IS Mr. #1 and will one day kill him.

The rest of the film consists of the two men trying to kill each other--as Mr. #1 calls to taunt Mr. #3 periodically. This test of wills seems to go on for days--during which 3 does a lot of mindless things that I won't even bother to describe. Eventually, Mr. #1 comes for a social call and the two of them sleep together (no sex, mind you). In the next scene, Mr. #3 is so worried about letting down his guard that he pees himself rather than take a bathroom break. No THAT'S dedication. During this long absurdist sleepover that never seems to end, the viewer is left wondering what the crap is happening. All you know is #1 and 3 could kill each other but mostly just sit around staring in space. In fact, the entire last third of the movie is just this nonsense.

Eventually, Mr. #1 and #3 get around to FINALLY trying to actually kill each other--during which time Mr. #3 sweats like a hog. Thankfully, once the deed is done, the movie mercifully ends. And I have seldom been this happy to see a movie end!!!

Overall, this is the lamest excuse for entertainment. The film is incomprehensible, has ridiculous characters and leads me to wonder why they made such a film? After all, 'normals' certainly won't enjoy it and it seems like it was only made for the select elite--those who "get it". Heck, haven't any of you heard the story about the Emperor's new clothes?! The only reason I give this a 2 and not a 1 is because a few of the killings were kind of cool AND it had a happy ending (because it finally ended).

By the way, this film has lots and lots of nudity. However, the Japanese convention was not to show pubic hair, so all full frontal shots have the naughty regions mysteriously covered. Regardless, it's not a film you want to show to your mother!
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Cult Masterpiece
jgcole30 November 2010
Seijun Suzuki made 42 films for Nikkatsu Studio, 1967's "Branded to Kill" being his last. It was his last because he was fired (while still under contract) for making a film that made no sense and no money. Suzuki sued the studio for breach of contract and as a result was blacklisted by the Japanese film industry. Undeterred, he worked in television for ten years before returning to the big screen in 1977. But time loves an artist and his art and in recent years "Branded to Kill" has been championed by film makers, film students and critics and is now considered a classic.

Hanada is a yakuza hit man with ambition. He is the No. 3 ranked assassin and wants to be No.1. But things aren't going right. He botches an assignment to provide protection for a boss then blows a hit when a butterfly lands on his rifle sight as he is ready to pull the trigger. The mob then puts out a hit on Hanada and he is on the run. But he has more problems than that. His sexy wife (who has more gratuitous nude scenes that I thought possible in a Japanese film of this era) is sleeping with Hanada's boss and Hanada is stalked by the mysterious No.1.

A straightforward plot is completely lost in a totally confusing narrative that has events out of chronological order, changes in space and time, and shifts in tempo that leave the viewer thinking that they are either watching the worst edited film of all time or they have somehow slipped into a David Lynch parallel universe. Suzuki's film grammar is that there is no grammar. You can do anything you want as long as it keeps the film interesting – and entertaining. The result is a fascinating, bizarre and mystifying film that is not only highly original but dazzling to look at. The black and white Cinemascope looks as good as anything I've ever seen and the camera direction is inspired.

But the look of the film is not disconnected from the story. The expressionist style – amazing lighting effects, surreal widescreen images and the confusing edits – all create a nightmare film language that mirrors the nightmare that Hananda is experiencing within the story. There is a femme fatale who has a dead bird hanging from her cars rear view mirror (which, actually, would be better than one of those ghastly air fresheners), lives in an apartment full of dead butterflies strung up into a lacy embroidery and has an attraction for water that leaves her glistening wet in most scenes. BTK also has an absurdist comic feel to it: James Bond loves his vodka martini's, Hanada loves his boiled rice. And in a scene that has since been copied, Hanada shoots someone by firing a bullet into a basement drainpipe, the bullet traveling up through the pipe and out of a sink on the second floor and into the eye of an optometrist. It all seems to work as it plays with the usual yakuza themes: loyalty and honor, an existential loner hit man, double crosses and hit men assassinating other hit men.

This film is not for those who prefer a straightforward narrative or a film with a logic that can be discerned by simply watching it again. But others will find this fascinating film something they will want to watch again...and again.
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a crazy experimental movie that might be one of the great post-modern crime films ever made
MisterWhiplash6 October 2007
Seijun Suzuki has a lot of nerve as a director, and I mean that as complimentary as it can sound. He pushes buttons without being too exploitive- he knows the genre by the back of his hand, has likely seen his share of 40s film noir and gangster pictures, and knows at least a little of the French new-wave (or rather seems to carry over a similar spirit). So he knows also, even more crucially, how to turn the genre on its head while keeping a sense of poetry to the proceedings. It's hard to pull off a sense of the poetic in a crime film, but Suzuki's camera techniques are to the quality that he can get his actors at the same level of a challenge of sorts. Branded to Kill is about deconstructing the myths of the hit-man, the qualities of emotion and subservience, of duty and sacrifice, the coldness, and the suppressed longing for death that is encompassing. And damn if it isn't a helluva lot of fun as pulp entertainment, a tale told with some strange characters and even stranger twists of fate, and loaded to the gills with sex and violence.

That last part, I might add, is important in seeing Branded to Kill in context forty years ago. Who else but Suzuki, and maybe Arthur Penn, would go for this level of bizarre violence and uncompromising sex at the time, and at the same time not turn it into some kind of B-movie spectacle? Come to think of it, the premise and essential plot is pure B-movie: a hired killer, Hanada, aka #3 (Jo Shishido, very bad-ass even as he goes crazy), is very good at his job, so good that he's able to kill #2 in a big shoot-out scene in the first twenty minutes of the film, as he escorts another gangster around. Coming back from that mission, he gets a ride from mysterious Misako (Anne Mari), who gives him a mission to kill someone for her. But it goes bad, he's kicked out of the syndicate, and now will be killed by his old bosses. This problem is broken up by two things: 1, #3 is so good, even under total stress from his girlfriend Mami trying to kill him ("We're beasts", she says to him crying her eyes out in supposed guilt), he kills all of those who are supposed to kill him; and 2, he meets killer #1- the "Phantom" killer, who will soon kill him...'soon' being the dreaded word.

Well, as 'pure' as it can be under the circumstances anyway. It's essentially the story of an assassin who has the tables turned on him, and has to step up to the challenge- will he be #1? Can there ever be any kind of #1 in the world of hired killers? The last half hour is mostly only #3 and #1 in the apartment, as they both reach for their guns at the same time and neither uses them. It becomes a game of psychological torture (not to mention nerves), which reaches a fever pitch by the time the climax at the gymnasium comes around. But around this genre story we get Suzuki's style as a director, which is startling, provocative, tawdry, and surreal, whatever one could think to call it. Over the opening credits we see a tiny light go over the names, and the first shot is a random airplane image. There's plenty of indelible images from the film- killer #2 running out of the building on fire; the uproarious, delirious moths and lines and other figures that #3 sees around him at one point; the simple sight of our hero smelling his beloved rice, his first love; Misako in close-up staring at the killer in the rain- chillingly performed by Anne Mari like she's just got out of electro-shock- telling him her hatred of men and her lack of fear for death.

But around these images Suzuki is confident at casting his torn and frayed #3 killer (Jo Shishido gives the performance of a career, with him getting better as the film goes on and he's put in more surreal circumstances), and at being a master of compositions. He and DP Kazue Nagatsuka put just the right lift of suspense and danger to scenes, like the drunken gangster taunting to be shot in the tunnel, or #3 being told he'll be killed the first time and laughing it off, or even the near sci-fi-style of shooting the sides of the buildings. There's maybe a reason, aside from the perverse attention to dark comedy and weird drama in the proceedings, that the producers decided to fire the director after seeing his finished cut: he doesn't follow the rules, or whatever the rules might be in so much practice going into the norm, for shooting a traditional gangster film. Why not just keep the camera still on the whole building as a man falls to his death from the top? Or how about as our hero is on the phone we're seeing most of what's above his head in the apartment, then shifting below? It's a risk that Suzuki takes, to make the style reflect atmosphere of the urban landscapes, on top of that of the terrors facing #3, and only once or twice looking too self-conscious. In a word, it's hip.

It's probably not surprising then that the speed and energy and form of the style feels influential to so many who skate that line between mainstream and art-house, while at the same time doesn't feel aged at all. If anything, the sex is still hot, the sudden violence still shocking (and shockingly funny), and the ending as perfect a sum-up of the devastation of the ego of violence and death, the monstrosity of it, as could be imagined. I love it, in all its subtle, crazy independent wide-screen glory, and it serves as a great introduction to Suzuki's oeuvre.
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Sexy pulp movie that doesn't make much sense
Pedro-3712 January 2002
Seijun Suzuki was fired by his production company after completing this movie. They said his films are incomprehensible - and to be honest, they were perfectly right. I know Suzuki's movies have a cult following and I can see why: They're sexy pulp movies, directed with energy and a sense of fun. But they don't make any sense. "Koroshi no rakuin" is the weirdest of the Suzuki movies I've seen, even weirder than the chaotic Yakuza-pulp "Tokyo nagaremono" (1966). I sort of recommend it as an example for Japanese pulp cinema - but I can't say I like it.

Rating: 5/10
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Bullet With Butterfly Wings
Joseph Sylvers14 November 2008
"Un Chien Adalou" inspired Yakuza film, with some of the finest editing I've ever seen (that goes for the black and white cinematography too).

Butterflies, bullets, mirrors, again and again as death, action, and cinema, refracted around themselves and each other, in a whirl wind of jump cuts and shadows.

Fans of Lynch, Buneul, or Takashi Miike will enjoy. I can see how this inspired, a lot of film makers, but it still doesn't look like anything else I've ever seen. Much better than "Gate Of Flesh", my only previous Siejen Suzuki experience, though the plot is more intentionally confusing, the images and the experience on a whole, is inspired...and a very good, very strange time.

Like an miniature epic Spy Vs. Spy in Japan, in a dream you forget when you wake up in the mourning, but can't stop thinking about for the rest of the day. Funny too.
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Amphetamine logic
patrickknill25 January 2000
I very much suspect that the hung-loose narrative of this film, and indeed much of the content, is a surreal take on prolonged stimulant use. Just as in a contemporary pornographic (filmed or drawn in manga) setting, characters shoot up speed for its sex edge, the main character here sniffs rice instead. The scene in his apartment when he returns back work for example. I'm not saying this is the whole of the film, but it's a possible interpretation. Amphetamines, both then and now, remain a mainstay of gang operations in Japan and use is frowned upon, though secretly tolerated. Provided you don't let yourself go like our hero here and start having imaginary conversations in your head, discovering secret conspiracies etc. This is by no means the whole of the movie, but I don't believe that Suzuki gets the man to sniff rice to indicate his "Japaneseness", whatever that is. Indeed it's his fetishisation of rice that helps indicate him stepping out various structures and confines and towards his eventual demise. The question remains is why the director got him to pad out his cheeks to such an extent...
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Sharp suits, beautiful women, cool guns......... plot?!
robertsalad14 November 2005
Wow! what can be said about Sejuin Suzuki. Pop art magician, 60's psychedelic style guru, genius of cinema or a lunatic with a camera. Who knows but this film is fantastic, its so damn cool and stylish you'll think you've stumbled across the ultimate resource for every hep cat and cool daddy'o from New York to Tokyo. Only problem is it don't make the blindest bit of sense to me, at least not on the surface. But who cares because its so much fun. My favourite bit is when the hero is getting-it-on with the hot woman, running his hand up her leg, only to retract it and find a bunch of dead leaves in his hand!? genius. He then screams at her to make him some rice, and go to the damn shops if she ain't got any in the flat. he knows how to treat a lady! The grainy black n' white shots are a joy to watch and every frame is cinematically perfect. Very comic book style, like the recent Sin City. I've seen another of his movies, Tokyo drifter, which, again is a damn fine film. I know nothing about this geezer, but highly recommend you watch these works of insane genius, just don't expect to understand them.
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zetes14 June 2000
Branded to Kill is very hard to follow for about ten to fifteen minutes at its start, but after that it quickly escalates into one of the best films I've ever seen. It reminded me of dozens of other films I have seen, but it still somehow maintained its uniqueness throughout. I cannot wait to purchase Suzuki's other Criterion released film, Tokyo Drifter!

The story of the film isn't anything to rave over. It is your basic pulp about a hitman and the sexy femme fatales who, um, err, love him. The plot is very like American film noirs, but, as I said above, it's entirely unique. It's like noir as if it were made by aliens. The closest you can get to it from American cinema is Robert Aldrich's brilliant _Kiss Me Deadly_. The hero and the women of that film noir remind me a lot of the characters here. Even though the plot is quite simplistic, it does become suspenseful, especially near the end. Still, the plot is definitely not why I think this is one of the best films ever made.

The acting is great. Jo Shishido is an absolute dynamo. Perhaps he was the Bogart of Japan? Like Bogie, he is not particularly handsome, but he has this raw masculine power. Maybe it's Shishido's pronounced cheakbones. Shishido is not cynical, though, like a lot of the pulp heroes of America (at least he didn't seem so to me; the DVD cover art depicts him with a kind of a smirk that never appeared on his face in the film; perhaps the designer was just influenced subconsciously by the American ideal of a noir hero). I actually felt his physical and psychological pains throughout the film. The two femme fatales, Mami and Misako, are excellent, also. And Number One Killer just ruled (wait till you see him let No. 1 go in his shoe! You'll know what I mean when you see it!).

The real reason why I think this is one of the best films ever made is the style. While I usually dislike style over substance, I just couldn't help myself here. It was just so unique and interesting that I had to clap a few times. The music is perfect. It is usually jazzy, but is sometimes more unusual. Every piece of music works perfectly where it is placed. And it is nowhere near overused. There are tons of perfectly filmed moments without music. Possibly the most impressive aspect of Branded to Kill is its absolutely stunning cinematography. You could watch this film frame for frame. The mise en scene is unbelievable. Wow! Every single frame could be blown up into a poster and pasted on a wall.

Definitely a 10/10. But don't see it unless you understand and love film. This is the kind of gem which most people who think they love film would just throw away because they missed the point.
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Mixed Up
tedg24 February 2006
National intellectual identities are real, real enough to create pockets of art. Each pocket reflects different notions about how the world is put together. So when we pick DVDs from the shelves, we are doing more than picking flavors for a meal, we instead pick the stuff out of which you can construct your cosmos.

Movies make it easy, especially 30 year old European films.

From France, we have the notion that movies are artifacts of the film-making process and little else. So when you see a movie, the role of the story is to annotate all the other stuff, the brushstrokes. One, very nice technique is to construct a scene of different takes and angles of the "re-enactment" of that scene. An example I just saw with this film: the aftersex scene in "Shoot the Piano Player" has about two dozen individual one or two second shots of the lovers in bed, near-asleep. The scenes are jumbled from what may have been scores of takes. Different positions, angles, lighting. Resnais would do it with different beds and clothes. A collage of images that suggest a larger whole than what anyone could see.

Italians go the other way. Reality is composed of solid gold threads that cameras can capture. The art in this is the elegance and cleanliness of the way reality is exposed. It isn't about brushstrokes -- there need be no indication of the capture at all.

Spaniards (including especially the influences in the colonies) have it quite a bit differently. The world is synthetic, many layers ascending to magical plasticity. These are spun by souls in the worlds in collaboration with other souls looking at those worlds, Confusion between those groups is part of the game.

Now, along come the Japanese and HKers. If you are not rooted in a cosmology and you just want to be stylish, you'll borrow from all of these without regard to how they fit together. The world is one of unordered chaos of undirected gods with a wrapper of cool postures.

This movie is extraordinary. It takes chances with each of the three traditions I note, pushing them a bit farther than the priests of each would likely do. Some of the notions are striking, the fragmented cuts: different parts of scenes, overlapping women and intents, guns and butterflies, implied and explicit scents.

A young man with an appreciation of what he had went wild in a perfumery and fell in love with the smells instead of the woman they might have enhanced.

So, friends. Living in these at least gives you opportunity to visit different universes. If you choose to stay in this one, you'll live with all shell, nothing but posture, the illusion of depth only. Much has been made that Jarmusch quoted things from this. Its worth experiencing Jarmusch (especially "Ghost Dog") as a way of understanding how he deals with the problem of chaos. He goes another layer, giving only the illusion of emptiness but implying something else. His chaos is elevated to a matter of style itself, with something inside. What is it for Jarmusch? Something made of all those three, but woven at the roots rather than the billboards. Noir created by its puppets.

If you can stand it, and if you can extricate yourself when the time comes, this can be fun. But if you want the real thing, go to "Chungking Express" or its surrounding projects.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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Hard to follow; Fun to watch
aqua_swing22 April 2005
It's really hard to describe how neat this movie is. I could sum it up in a bunch of words but I don't think I'd do it justice. The camera work in it is amazing, the storytelling is quick and a little on the funny side, but the plot seems to jump all over the place, in a way that I've never seen before. Parts of the movie were so hard to follow, only after a while you'd get clued in on where it was trying to end up. It's a masterful piece of cinema in every form, however, and is way before it's time with innovations that just seem to be amazingly done for it's time. It kind of reminds me of driving down a gravel road in the dark in that you can't figure out where you're going, but when you get to whatever's at the end, you're happy you did it.
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Challenging, but fun-loving and very entertaining
Charles Camp26 February 2018
The film that got master filmmaker Seijun Suzuki fired from his production company for being "incomprehensible." Joke's definitely on them given Branded to Kill is now considered a classic of Japanese cinema and one of the best of its era. This film was truly ahead of its time for a number of reasons: experimental editing, untraditional narrative structure, blatant surrealism, and heavily stylized direction. It's one of those films that succeeds at the difficult task of being both challenging and flat-out fun, never taking itself too seriously despite being highly artistic. It may not always be clear exactly what's going on, but I think people often fail to appreciate that with a film like this that's part of the appeal - it adds to the bizarre nature of the film and allows for scenes that wouldn't be possible if not for the dream-logic approach. Suzuki manages to serve up unique and memorable sequences one after the other and there are a few super well-executed and entertaining action sequences. He and his crew clearly had a lot of fun making this film and, despite its challenging and avant-garde qualities, that fun-loving approach is infectious and translates beautifully.

Strong 4/5
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Stylish but random
grantss4 November 2017
A hit-man, known simply as "Number 3" (after his ranking in the hit- man community) is hired to protect a key crime figure. Things don't go according to plan and he finds himself on the outer with his organisation. Furthermore, this brings him into conflict with the mysterious and dangerous Number 1.

Stylish but random. There was heaps of potential - from the outset the movie looked like a Japanese film-noir. The plot was quite gritty and interesting and seemed set up for a classic story.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. The plot develops in rather random fashion. Things just happen out of blue, often with no continuity from or reference to previous scenes. It's as if director Seijun Suzuki was trying too hard to be arty and ended up just being unfocused.

Throw in some hit-and-miss performances and the overall result is disappointing.
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A three part comic book film...
mifunesamurai8 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The absurdity of this movie is what hooked me in with its over the top performances, violence, and sex scenes. All captured by stylistic crazy camera angles and effective black and white cinematography, along with some erratic editing. The influences surely came from comic books.

Most importantly is the story structure which was a fabulous total mess. It was structured in three parts. First part dealt with a series of shoot-ups and car chasers of the comic book type as Hit-man Number 3 attempts to protect a mysterious person. Once the violence was established and dealt with, we move onto the next step - SEX. The second part was all about our hit-man's sex fetish and mistreatment of women. Very revealing for a 1967 movie, once again showing that the Japanese cinema was way ahead of the Westerners. The third part was what interest me the most, and that was the cat and mouse game between Hit-man No 3 and 1. A very twisted and comic section that had my attention right to the very ending.

Director Suzuki delivered a fast paced modern Samurai tale of honor and heroism amongst hit men and lowlife's. So strap yourself in for some epic Japanese masochist action!
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