A.V. Club - 01/11/2012
"BRANDED TO KILL repeatedly mocks the tropes it supposedly serves...delivering a seemingly tragic finale with the timing and verve of a Marx Brothers gag." -- Grade: A
Sight and Sound - 03/01/2012
"It might be the most self-knowingly rebellious of New Wave films..."
A not-quite tongue-in-cheek send-up of Japanese censorship and pat, by-the-numbers "Yakuza" gangster films, this gonzo feature follows a lower-level underworld assassin as he's toyed with and tormented by a higher-up after botching a job. Suzuki's strategically placed animated sequences obscured "offending" material, thwarting censors and delighting fans of the director's black humor.
In this cinematic masterpiece Seijan Suzuki transcends the B-movie genre. Fired after making it, he was unable to work for ten years. Branded to Kill follows the strange day-to-day existence of an expert hit-man who carries out his orders with steely determination and impassive cool. All hell breaks loose, however, when a butterfly alighting on his rifle scope results in a botched job, and a death sentence for the screw-up. Joe Shishido, with his collagen-enhanced cheekbones, makes a terrific antihero whose unusual quirks (Suzuki reasoned that a man obsessed with the scent of warm rice would signal to audiences that this guy was quintessentially Japanese) instantly endear him to newly-made fans.