This live-action adaptation of Takao Saito’s manga stars Ken Takakura as the titular assassin -- his pseudonym refers to Golgotha and Judas Iscariot’s role as the 13th man, the betrayer -- who is hired to identify and kill crime boss Max Boa.
Golgo's employer knows that Boa’s base of operations is Iran and has provided Golgo with photographs of several men bearing Boa’s name along with a somewhat implausible cover story of being on his honeymoon with his Iranian wife. But otherwise Boa is about as mysterious as Golgo himself.
The Iranian aspect is where Golgo 13 gets interesting beyond its Japanese action-movie formula. For we have a Japanese lead and crew filming in pre-revolutionary Iran with a cast that is otherwise Iranian -- and it is all dubbed into Japanese.
The closest point of comparison I can think of is Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django, with its largely Japanese cast playing cowboys and speaking in phonetic English, except that here things are done without any obvious sense of parody or irony.
You’re not supposed to notice or bother when a car chase sees one vehicle, formerly containing four men, suddenly be empty when it crashes and explodes, nor that Golgo sticks out like a sore thumb as what seems to be the only East Asian man in the entirety of Iran, nor that the two hitmen brought in from France by one of Boa’s underlings to take him out look utterly un-French.
Instead it’s more a case of sit back and enjoy the unpretetentious does-what-it-says on the tin action, along with some impressive vistas that would not look out of place in a John Ford or Sergio Leone western, or the intrinsic documentary value of seeing then-up-to-the-minute images of westernising/modernising Iran inadvertently juxtaposed those that would become predominant a few years later.
Besides, Ken Takakura is the sort of guy -- think Toshiro Mifune through Clint Eastwood and back again -- who just has that effortless coolness to him...