“Morals or money, what will it be?”
I want to start this off by saying I know very little about this genre of film, so my knowledge will be amateurish at best. Though, from what I have seen, it is definitely a genre worthy of mine, and every one else’s attention. A Colt Is My Passport is no exception. The film is about a hit man and his right hand man trying to escape Japan after a successful assignment on a Yakuza boss. Senzaki (Eimei Esumi), son of the deceased, seeks vengeance while talking a rival boss into helping him. All the while, Shuji (Jo Shishido) and Jun (Jerry Fujio) receive help from Mina (Chitose Kobayashi), a local bar maid who is also trying to leave.
A Colt Is My Passport takes its cues from a couple of other genres and blends it into its own style that just works. Everything from the black and white film of America’s Film Noir, to Harumi Ibe’s score, which sounds like it belongs in a Spaghetti Western, set this up to be an enjoyable experience for those that are fans of said genres.
The cinematography is wonderful, and the black and white gives off this layer of grittiness that really helps to capture the feel of the underworld. Shigoeyoshi Mine, under direction of Takashi Nomura, is a master with the camera, and his bag of tricks are on full display with his choice of close-ups, the way he films the chase scene, and his choice of camera movements, including a tracking shot, during the climatic shoot out. Together, they created a beautifully detailed world that must be appreciated.
Shuichi Nagahara and Nobuo Yamada, the two responsible for writing this film, don’t do anything particularly special but it works. The themes present in this film are themes that have been seen many times before, and after in films that deal with the criminal underworld. Things like the loyalty of the antihero protagonist, or the way the gangs go about their business of removing him from existence, such as keeping the main characters in limbo as their fate hangs in the balance. Even the girl is used in commonly found plot points. That’s not to say it removes anything from the film, as A Colt Is My Passport is more about the style than the substance, but it is something to keep in mind. There is a bit too much dialog as well. Where silence might have fit the mood a little better, characters just continue to ramble on. It is a little grating giving some of the actor’s talents, or lack thereof.
A lot of this is made up of course by Shishido. The man just oozes cool. He has a very distinct style that seems to be present in all of the yakuza films he had a role in during this period. The way he carries himself, with his hunched over, leaning posture, the way he handles a pistol, his suits, to his odd, morbid sense of humor. Everything clicks with this man that makes him instantly recognizable. Not unlike the way Eastwood has his slightly angled cowboy hat, cigars and poncho or Toshiro Mifune had his sword, kimono and un-scratchable itch. Seriously, this man is fun to watch and more than makes up for any shortcomings that a present.
A Colt Is My Passport is a fun film for those like myself who are just getting into yakuza films, or those that are experienced with the Nikkatsu Corporation and other production companies from this time period. This film is highly recommended.
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