Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Colt Is My Passport (Takashi Nomura, 1967)

Jerry Fujio and Jo Shishido in Takashi Nomura's A Colt Is My Passport (1967).

Part of the new Nikkatsu Noir box set from Criterion, A Colt Is My Passport is one of the "borderless" (meaning something like being influenced by American and European films, stories about escaping, taking place in locations and using situations not common in Japanese films) action films from Nikkatsu released in the 60's. Heavily influenced by western films, it starts out with the sound of gunshots and a spaghetti western theme and it features Jo Shishido as a hitman character that would be more likely in a Hollywood film than in anything from Japan.

Shishido plays a hitman who is hired by a yakuza group to take out the leader of another gang, only problem is, Shishido does the job a little too well and finds himself, along with his accomplice (Jerry Fujio), on the run from the gang whos boss he just killed as well as the gang that hired him.

Trying to get out of Japan, first by plane and then by boat, they are hiding out in Yokohama at a trucker inn where they meet a woman who is also trying to leave her old life behind. It turns out that it's not as easy as just jumping on a ship when the former rival yakuza gangs team up to catch Shishido and Fujio. It all boils down to a desert finale, filmed at a landfill, that is everything you would expect from a showdown in a spaghetti western, only thing missing being a coffin full of guns, instead you get a golf bag this time around.

It's not a complicated film but what makes it really stand out is the acting by Shishido, and this was apparently the film that cemented him as a leading man. Every time he's in the frame he breathes life into the film and there is no doubt who's the toughest guy around. For sheer entertainment it doesn't get much better than this. If the rest of the films in this box set is half as good as A Colt Is My Passport, it will be the release of the year.

To read more about Nikkatsu Action Cinema I'd recommend Mark Schilling's book No Borders, No Limits.