Branded to Kill

Koroshi no rakuin

dir. Seijun Suzuki

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Bizarre, perverse and delightfully nonsensical, Seijun Suzuki's delirious deconstruction of the gangster genre is the undisputed high point of the Nikkatsu studio's '60s output.
Brought on late in the game to rewrite and direct a routine low-budget Nikkatsu gangster flick, the out-of-favour Seijun Suzuki took advantage of this last-minute for-hire job to cram seemingly every one of his anarchic impulses and far-out visual ideas into a single ninety-minute stretch — which promptly got him fired for "making movies that make no sense and no money" and effectively blacklisted from feature-film work for the following decade. Ironically, of course, Branded to Kill is now celebrated as Suzuki's masterpiece and the unquestioned high point of Nikkatsu's entire sixties output. The great Joe Shishido stars as Goro Hanada, the third-ranked hitman in the country, who has a burning desire to be Number One. A cool and efficient killer whose only weakness is his uncontrollable excitement at the smell of boiling rice, Hanada is in high demand until he botches a job when a butterfly lands on the barrel of his rifle, forcing him to go on the run from his employers. The plot, as such, soon stops making any sense as Suzuki undertakes a madcap deconstruction/demolition of the entire gangster-movie genre, scrambling chronology, characters and action with wild abandon.