Branded to Kill

1967

Branded to Kill

Critics Consensus

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100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 23

84%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,356
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Movie Info

A delirious fever dream of a film, Seijun Suzuki's Branded to Kill takes the familiar elements of "B"-movie crime drama and transforms them into something outrageously bizarre and unexpectedly poetic. The film's story centers on Hanada, a.k.a. "No. 3 Killer," the third-best hit man in Japanese organized crime. Near the top of his game, his fortunes change when he encounters Misako, a mysterious, death-obsessed woman who brings him a particularly difficult mission. In a famous moment indicative of the film's eccentric sensibility, a butterfly lands on his gun's sight at the exact moment he pulls the trigger, causing him to miss the shot. This failure means that the killer becomes the target, and must run for his life from his former employers, and the mysterious "No. 1 Killer." While the film does contain some spectacular action sequences, the story is played less as a suspense thriller than as a surrealistic, psychosexual nightmare, filled with grotesque imagery and strange touches, such as Misako's use of a dead bird's corpse as a rear-view mirror decoration, and his almost fetishistic fixation with the smell of boiling rice. Indeed, the narrative is at times so fragmented that it is often difficult to decipher exactly what is happening; however, the striking black-and-white cinematography and avant-garde editing provide the film with a dream logic all its own. Now considered by many critics a maverick classic comparable to the works of Samuel Fuller or Jean-Luc Godard, the film was less well received at the time of its original release, with its utter strangeness leading to director Suzuki's firing from the Nikkatsu studio and the near destruction of his career. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Branded to Kill

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (23)

Audience Reviews for Branded to Kill

  • Apr 24, 2016
    The Nikkatsu Company conceived "Branded to Kill" to be a low budget hitman film, a subgenre of the popular Yakuza films. What Nikkatsu got was a stylish Japanese New Wave picture where Seijun Suzuki lost his job for making "movies that make no sense and no money." Many things can be seen to have inspired Suzuki, among them film noir and the James Bond movies. "Branded to Kill" is at times surrealistic, absurdism and even avant-garde. "Branded to Kill" has gone on to influence several directors such as Jim Jarmusch, John Woo, and Quentin Tarantino and has since held a status of cult film. The story is about a hitman who isn't even number 1 or number 2, but considered number 3. He loves the smell of steamed white rice, and it arouses him. Suzuki has said this was an attempt to make the killer "quintessentially Japanese" and added that if he were Italian "he would be turned on by macaroni, right?" The film opens with Hanada (Joe Shishido) and his wife Mami Hanada (Mariko Ogawa) getting into a taxicab being driven by another hitman named Kasuga (Hiroshi Minami) who isn't ranked because he started drinking to control his shakes and anxiety. Kasuga has a job offer for a hit and asks Hanada for his help. Ksauga is killed but Hanada completes the job and meets beautiful femme fatale Misako Nakajo (Annu Mari). Misako needs help with a job, she needs Hanada to kill a man she will be with on the street. He only has a three second window to shoot him through the heart. During the hit, a butterfly obstructs his view and he shoots an old lady accidentily. Now that he has botched a hit, the organization demand his wife kill him, when she fails, he ends up being taken care of by Misako, who is also trying to kill him, and he's trying to kill her but won't because he wants to sleep with her. The organization sends number 1 after him and this starts Hanada's mental anguish and sleep deprivation. Hanada is an anti-hero with puffy cheeks who is considered the best at his job, yet he's only ranked number three. Mikaso, the femme fatale is death, she speaks of only death, she kills, she wants to die and surrounds herself with death. Their relationship seems based on distrust and sexual desire. One reason this film may seem so fresh, even after nearly 50 years, is because the original script was unsatisfactory and Nikkatsu hired Suzuki to rewrite it and when he started shooting the film he had no script. Suzuki would think up scenes the day of or night before and it really pays off well in making a great, sometimes challenging, fragmented film that is very stylish and artistic.
    Joseph B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 06, 2013
    Hanada (Jo Shishido, whose strangely bulging cheeks anticipate Marlon Brando in "The Godfather") is the third best hitman in Japan, but botches an assignment and becomes a marked man himself. A simple plot is needlessly confusing at first, as shadowy, black-and-white imagery rattles around too many poorly differentiated characters. But once the scenario narrows to a showdown between Hanada and his stalker, the tension becomes much more intense. Director Seijun Suzuki's bold editing and relentless tight shots are a bit tiring, but brilliant lighting, an evocative score and well-chosen locations save the day. For extra fun, add Hanada's bizarre fetish for smelling cooked rice.
    Eric B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 13, 2011
    The famous and extreme film that got Seijun Suzuki fired after it's release and nearly destroyed his career, now over 40 years since it's release the film is heralded as a classic from an auteur and is praised alongside such Directors as Fuller and Godard. I've seen Suzuki films and after viewing "Tokyo Drifter" a couple days ago (Which is also reviewed in my blog) I thought that his films couldn't push the envelope that much more but boy was I wrong! "Branded to Kill" is Suzuki at his most extreme of extremes! This film is of the same essence as "Tokyo Drifter" but fueled up and nearly dreamlike throughout the entire film with it's striking B&W cinematography and editing that is truly dreamlike and even humorous in it's progression of timing. The film is filled with both action and drama and some truly outrageous and simply strange scenes, most of which involve the main character Hanada Goro and his fetish for sniffing boiling rice. The film also plays out like a wonderful and surreal thriller in the ways of some of the assassinations as well as the various character's and their bizarre issues. All this said, If you are looking for something truly different and unique as well as a damn fine film filled with style to spare and created by a true film auteur, then this is one hell of a ride!
    Chris B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 22, 2010
    Hamada, the #3 killer with the rice-sniffing fetish, finds himself in trouble with the Organization after he falls in love with a woman with a death wish. BRANDED drips with 60s cool and is a near-perfect work of neo-surrealism in that, although the details often don't make sense, the big picture always does. Contains the memorable scenes of Hamada assassinating a man by shooting up a drainpipe and botching a hit when a butterfly lands on his gun barrel.
    Greg S Super Reviewer

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