A Colt is My Passport

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Not at Dulles International, it’s not.

The Film: Takashi Nomura’s 1967 stylized yakuza caper

The Potable: Four Jim Beam whiskey ginger highballs

Two men meet in a basement shooting range. They do not know each other, but they will. They scowl through cigarette smoke, aim their guns downrange, and fire at competing targets. We never see who wins; instead, the scene cuts to the image of a double-barreled exhaust pipe – a future getaway car. Now this, I thought, sipping my highball, is goddamn style.

As someone who exudes it, I am always on the lookout for “cool.” Effortless, graceful, Ineffable. Sometimes it’s a new pair of shoes, leather boots with the words “Fuck Off” on the sole. Sometimes it’s a new jazz album, one that dips at all the right times, bazzags in just the right places, blares a lot of notes at once, and always, always swings. Other times, of course, my search takes me to the bottomless well of Japanese neo-noir, a genre that’s two parts Sam Spade, one part bizzlewap, refrigerated overnight in the French New Wave, and served with just a trackitty dingdong of bazangazanga.

A Colt is My Passport focuses on a pair of hitmen who are hired to bop a rival yakuza boss. The job goes off fairly well – some might say undramatically well – until the buyers decide it best to bump off their boppers, forcing the protagonists to go on the lam, lest they be cheesed. The plot isn’t important. The fun is in the details, the mood. The suits, the sunglasses, the nihilism. By utilizing blistering cutaways, playful zooms, and melodramatic staging, Nomura presents old tropes in new, energetic ways. Consider, for instance, how Japanese surf rock is just so, so much better than California surf rock. How Spaghetti Westerns exaggerate the American mythos already exaggerated in the films of John Ford. These pastiches build on original genres and amplify their best elements to insane heights.

“Tell me: How did he die?” “No special way. Same as they always do.” Very fucking cool.

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Later, our protagonists pull up to a dockyard in a dump truck. Is this cool? Should I trade in my two-door hatchback for a Mack McNeilus? Not so fast. The setup is only a ruse, a way to entrap their trackers, so for now I will keep my Hyundai.

I watched this movie weeks ago. As regular readers may know, my wife and I recently returned from our honeymoon in Greece, where I ate enough feta cheese to drown an Argonaut. I bought a new pair of sunglasses – faux-wood wayfarers – which I pulled to the bridge of my nose to address waiters. “Sardines, please.” I wheezed my way up a mountain to visit the legendary birthplace of Zeus because I have always considered myself far too laid back for cardio. Elizabeth Taylor never went to a gym.

Still, I spent weeks – nay, my whole life – knowing that while I can claim a certain pizzazz, I have never been a true, died-in-the-wool “badboy.” Would I get the chance to prove otherwise before my new wife?

While souvenir shopping, I stumbled across a small dagger made of weathered brass. “Pretty fly,” I muttered, paying the 11 euros. I asked my wife to keep it in her suitcase, as mine was already packed full with minced gyro meat. By the time we were prepared to depart from an airport in northwest Crete, we’d both forgotten about the blade.

“Ma’am, can you step this way?” asked a weedy-looking security guard.

I was already through security, standing by a trash can and pointing at my watch, anxious as I was for a pre-flight Heineken. I rolled my eyes, checked for a wi-fi signal, but then looked up as they sent my wife’s bag back through the x-ray scanner. A honeymoon can be a blur, but I suddenly remembered my Cretan dagger.

“Is there a problem here,” I asked. “Madam? Sir? Do you have a – a tool? A knife? Of some kind?” No, no, we both said. “It’s not my bag,” I added. As he turned his back, I nudged my wife. “They’re pretty sharp here, aren’t they? Really on point?”

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“What is this? What is this?” the guard screamed, pulling my dagger from a suitcase pocket. “I asked you about a knife. I asked you about this.” He meant it, I could see, a manic little man who’d spent his life searching for weapons and finally found his first. Here was my chance, I decided. As good a time as any.

“Hey, listen daddy-o,” I said, leaning in. I lowered my voice to a whisper. “It’s our passport.” “What?” he asked. “Don’t even worry about it,” I said. “It’s our passport. A ticket out of here, if you read.” “Is that a threat?” he asked. I hesitated. Technically speaking, yes, I realized it was. “No,” I said. “No?” “That thing couldn’t open an envelope,” I said. He held the dagger out, stretched erect before my face. “This is not allowed,” he screamed and then threw it in the trash, where the blade failed to even slice the garbage bag. I turned to my wife, smiled, and told her that I loved her, though she was in no mood.

After a ten-hour flight, I assured the US Customs agent I had nothing to declare. The dogs disagreed, and they confiscated all of my gyro meat.

While the title talks a big game, I realize now that A Colt is My Passport features no international travel. The protagonists are kidnapped and taken across state lines, but last I checked you don’t need a passport to get thrown into the back of a Subaru 1500.

Verdict: All US passports are issued by the Department of State, pursuant to Title 22, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 51.9. It is unlawful for any person other than the original, lawful recipient to use said passport. Use of said passport in contravention of passport regulations or of the conditions or restrictions set out in the passport, or for travel to countries where a US passport is not valid is a felony, pursuant to Title 18, US Code, Section 1544. For further information, contact the nearest US embassy or consulate, or the Department of State, Office of Passport Policy and Legal Advisory Services.

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