A Colt is My Passport, a wide-screen b&w movie from the prolific Hikkatsu studio, is a hip acid noir with a 60s patina and a surreal spaghetti-western score. A twist on a classic noir motif has a hit-man as existential hero, committed to an austere private code that elevates him above the yakuza hoods that want him dead after a mob hit goes wrong.
Director Takashi Nomura fills the screen with elegantly composed flowing senarios that pan and follow the action, giving movement to even establishing placement shots. The mis-en-scene is austere yet perversely satirical. While the planning and the mechanics of preparing for the hit are slowly paced and meticulous, the bland assured peregrinations of the hit man and his young apprentice, who are both dressed like loyal company men, and in one scene are seated in an office behind a desk, have an unnerving quotidian ambience. These guys are cold and distant, almost effigies.
However, the mood changes when the staging of the hit backfires and the two are on the run. They hole up in a sea-side hotel and are aided by a young waitress attracted to the older man, whose bravery and protective loyalty to his young buddy take on a mythic dimension. Here a mood of fatalism takes hold, and the inevitable final denoument is telegraphed by their entrapment in a closet-like room. After a final desperate bid to shake-off the mobsters, the classic western theme of redemption emerges, with the hero returning to face his pursuers after parlaying his fate for the escape of his buddy, who learns of the pact too late. The girl is left forlorn and bitter. The finale is a cinematic tour-de-force staged with mannered precision but hinging on a chaotic precipice of climactic violence and retributive justice.
You start by seeing the protagonist as a cousin of Melville’s inscrutable Samouri but by the end of the film he has been transformed into an avenging angel. Uber cool.