Duke Togo is a mercenary hit man known as Golgo 13. He appears to have some code of conduct, as all of his targets deserve to die for one reason or another; but that might just be a coincidence.
We never really get insight into Duke as a character. As the cover says ‘He Shoots…He Scores…” That about covers it. Does he have principals against killing innocents? I’m not sure, since he never says or does anything to suggest genuine interest in others. Through the course of the film, we follow Duke as he takes on various assignments and sleeps with beautiful women (or at least as beautiful as they can be with these character designs). Meanwhile, a mysterious conglomerate of Americans is on his trail.
Golgo 13 works great as an ’80s action movie. Duke is completely cold; showing no emotion, personality, or character. But that’s fine, because this is an action movie, and the only thing that really matters is that he shoots people up good.
The little vignettes that are his missions are well constructed and interesting. There’s no real mystery and the targets have no more character development than Duke himself, but there is variety, and Golgo 13 comes up with some creative ways to do his job.
I liked the way that the plot against Duke was integrated into the overall story. The conspirators worked in the shadows in a way that was nearly invisible to Duke until near the end, when they revealed themselves to him. This leaves Duke to be himself through most of the movie, keeping the film snappy and action-packed. Conversely, the conspiracy hires some hit men of their own who kind of drag the movie down on account of their silliness, like the snake man, or the twins.
The animation is limited, and most of the budget seems to have been reserved for the action scenes, which, again, is fine, because that’s what the audience came for. There’s a really awkward CG scene during the climax depicting some heliocentric flying through a cityscape. It looks like a video game from the era, and doesn’t work at all in the context of the film. The character designs are on the ‘realistic’ side of the spectrum, which suits the film well, but gives it an ‘ugly’ look.
I don’t have much more to say about it. Duke shoots people and stuff blows up. The plot is well done, and serves the purpose of showcasing the action. As long as you go in with proper expectations, you’ll be happy with the story in Golgo 13. At the same time, if you’re expecting the flashy visuals that normally accompany action movies, the dated animation may disappoint you.