Branded to Kill is Japanese director Seijun Suziki's brutal pean to a killer. Sort of a followup to his brilliant Tokyo Drifter, which I really liked, it tells the story of a Yakuza (the Japanese Mafia) hit man who makes a mistake and then spends the rest of the movie trying to avoid getting bumped off in return. It is a subject matter often visited by Suzuki, but I think he's done it better in other movies.
Jo Shishido is an expert hit man, called in when things get tough. The movie opens with him involved in a protection job, trying to keep a VIP from getting whacked by a rival gang. He succeeds, but only just barely, losing his partner in the proces. As he is getting older, he begins to wonder if he wants to keep doing it.
He gets hired by a women to knock another person off, but the job gets bungled through no fault of his own, and for slightly nebulous reasons, the mob turns on him and begins to hunt him down. His girlfriend is tortured, and a movie of it happening is shown to him. He tries to rescue her and the movie sinks into a strange miasma of violence, sex, and gunfire. To be honest, I gave up at this point!
While Tokyo Drifter showed some incredible visuals, I think one problem with Branded to Kill is the black and white format, which hampers Suzuki's style, and leaves almost nothing else to pay attention to. None of the main characters is at all likable, as violence and sex play an integral part of their lives, with almost no redeeming qualities. Even the lovers smack each other around and spend much of the movie screaming at each other. It was an uncomfortable movie to watch, but they may have been planned, I guess. It just doesn't make for a fun or even interesting evening at the cinema!