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Branded to Kill (The Criterion Collection)

4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

THE WILDLY PERVERSE STORY OF THE YAKUZA'S RICE-SNIFFING NO. 3 KILLER, IS SEIJUN SUZUKI AT HIS DELIRIOUS BEST. FROM A COOKIE CUTTER STUDIO SCRIPT, SUZUKI DELIVERED THIS BRUTAL, HILARIOUS, AND VISUALLY INSPIRED MASTERPIECE AND WAS PROMPTLY FIRED.

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Seijun Suzuki's absolutely mad yakuza movie bends the hit-man genre so out of shape it more resembles a Luis Bunuel take on Martin Scorsese. Number three killer Goro Hanada (Jo Shishido) is a hired killer who loves his work, but when he misses a target after a mere butterfly sets his carefully balanced aim astray, he becomes the next target of the mob. Goro is no pushover and easily dispatches the first comers, leaving them splayed in death contortions that could qualify for an Olympic event, but the rat-a-tat violence gives way to a surreal, sadistic game of cat and mouse. The legendary Number One mercilessly taunts his target before moving in with him in a macho, testosterone-laden Odd Couple truce that ends up with them handcuffed together. Kinky? Not compared to earlier scenes. The smell of boiling rice sets Goro's libido for his mistress so aflame that Suzuki censors the gymnastic sex with animated black bars that come to life in an animated cha-cha. Because Suzuki pushed his yakuza parodies and cinematic surrealism too far, his studio, Nikkatsu, finally called in their own metaphoric hit and fired the director with such force that he was effectively blackballed from the industry for a decade. It took about that long for audiences to embrace his audacious genre bending--Suzuki's pop-art sensibilities were just a bit ahead of their time. --Sean Axmaker

Special Features

  • Exclusive interview with director Seijun Suzuki
  • Vintage Japanese film ephemera from the collection of John Zorn

Product Details

  • Actors: Jo Shishido, Koji Nanbara, Isao Tamagawa, Anne Mari, Mariko Ogawa
  • Directors: Seijun Suzuki
  • Writers: Atsushi Yamatoya, Chûsei Sone, Hachiro Guryu, Mitsutoshi Ishigami, Takeo Kimura
  • Producers: Kaneo Iwai, Takiko Mizunoe
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, Letterboxed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: February 23, 1999
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 078002205X
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,780 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Branded to Kill (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
I was inspired to seek out Branded to Kill as it's one of Jim Jarmusch's favorite films, and he's one of my favorite filmmakers. You could say that his interest in Japanese pop culture first came to the fore in Mystery Train, the darkly comic tale of two Japanese tourists on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Elvis. But it's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, which mostly clearly takes its inspiration from Seijun Suzuki's bizarre, yet strangely beautiful Branded to Kill. Certainly, the external trappings are different (Suzuki's film is in B&W, it's set in Japan, RZA most definitely did not compose the soundtrack, etc.), but the central characters are cut from the same inscrutable cloth. Arguably, Ghost Dog also takes its inspiration from another non-American noir released in '67--Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai with Alain Delon as, you guessed it, a bird-loving hitman of few words (a film that, in turn, inspired John Woo's The Killer).

Branded to Kill plays like a cross between an American noir from the 1950s (Kiss Me Deadly), a French New Wave post-noir (Breathless, Le Doulos), and a Japanese "art" film (Woman in the Dunes). At first, you think Goro (Jo Shishido) is one odd dude (with his chipmunk cheeks, weird rice obsession, insatiable libido, etc.), but then you meet the women in his life... Both of them, his wife (Mariko Ogawa) and butterfly-obsessed mistress (Mari Annu), are about as strange as it gets (so strange--and downright kinky--that accusations of misogyny would not be completely misplaced).

If you've been looking for something different, you've found it in Branded to Kill. If the plot is as incomprehensible as that of The Big Sleep, it doesn't really matter.
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By A Customer on November 20, 2000
Format: DVD
Honestly, I was expecting a New Wave film, but what I got was a film that, stylistically, compares with the New Wave, but fails to achieve New Wave pathos. But that doesn't mean "Branded to Kill" is a bad film, it just means you have to look at it from a different perspective: The film is fluff, substance is style. It's lack of cohesion seems to be an intellectual bluff rather than a conscious, "artistic" convention. Therefore, the film should be compared to the films of Roger Corman and the Blaxploitation era.
"Branded to Kill" seems like the Asian precursor to films like "Hard Boiled" and "The Killer". BTK's action scenes are inventive and frenzied. They are not "realistic", but they fit within the film's tone, which is unrealistic anyway. Everything is over the top, and the film has that "go for broke" feeling of the New Wave. You have to admire Suzuki's moxy, which suits the era and environment in which the film was created.
In the interview on this disk, Suzuki says his films were meant to be strictly entertaining. That they are. "Branded to Kill" is one of the most entertaining films I've ever seen, besting even some of Roger Corman's films. It's both maddening and exuberant, and a great example of perverse cinema.
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Format: DVD
"Branded to Kill", Seijun Suzuki's masterpiece but also a film that led to the filmmaker's firing.

While we are graced with films with visual style, humor and coolness by Beat Takeshi, Takashi Miike, Kazuaki Kiriya to name a few... Seijun Suzuki was part of the Nikkatsu company that churned two movies a week and had to work with a low budget, be creative and churn out a film within 25 days. Needless to say, executives didn't understand Suzuki's style, they criticized him, they talked down to him but what they didn't know was that his style was not being rebellious, it was his style.

Perhaps Suzuki's style was too surreal because what Nikkatsu wanted was traditional Japanese films that they were used to making. Seijun Suzuki who created 40 B-movies for the company between 1956 and 1967 was anything but traditional, not necessarily a rebel but he created films that he wanted to make,each film being different and now respected as films that were ahead of its time.

Prior to releasing his final film, "Branded to Kill", for Nikkatsu, they were growing tired by his inability to create traditional films that the executives were used too. But by the end of "Branded to Kill", the executives of the company had enough of Suzuki's style of filmmaking. While he never complained, he was fired from his job. And Suzuki was not a man to let the studio run all over him. In fact, he successfully sued the company for wrongful dismissal but in Japanese business tradition, if you sue an entertainment company, you will be blacklisted (which still goes on today in Japan) and in this case, Suzuki was blacklisted for ten years.
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Format: VHS Tape
Japanese Noir? If such a thing is possible, I guess this is it. Although I think that the more recent Beat Takeda movies are closer to the classic American form that Suzuki's stuff. Am I detecting the influence of the French New Wave in this film? Existentialism seems to manifest itself in different ways throughout the film particularly in the numbering of the yakuza killers. I was amazed by the really strong erotic content but found some of the violence cartoonish (not neccessarily a bad thing). If you buy this, and I strongly reccomend that you do,don't try very hard to figure it out as you go along. Just ride along with it and it will take you to some very dark, and bizarre, places.
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