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A shallow description would refer to this as a Japanese version of Dirty Harry. And it does bear some resemblance to that film, but while Dirty Harry broke the rules in order to get a criminal at any cost, Kitano's character Azuma seems to seek vengeance due not only to his lust for revenge but because he's psychotic. There's a sense that Azuma won't rest until he gets his man not out of duty but out of madness. Kitano gives what might be his best performance in this film; he is absolutely riveting. And the film itself is beautifully shot, and the score is especially good. But the best part of this is perhaps the end - the film ends on a perfectly cynical note that couldn't be topped. Seek this out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When, in 1988, director Kinji Fukasaka walked off Violent Cop/Sono Otoko,
Kyobo ni Tsuki' at short notice, TV chat show host, author, actor and
comedian Takeshi Kitano stepped in to take over. Few expected much out of
the ordinary. What audiences saw instead was the unheralded arrival of a
major talent. Yakuza flick auteur Fukasaka had already lined up the script,
and the project was well underway when Kitano (nicknamed Beat') assumed
creative control. Hence the final film, although clearly part of the
director's oeuvre, lacks some elements making his later work so distinctive.
But here already are the moments of stillness and sudden violence, the
therapeutic view of the sea, the touches of surreality, as well as the
shambling tension of Kitano's own presence which have since marked him out
as one of Japan's leading directors.
Outside of tinkering with the finished result, Kitano had little to say about Hisashi Nozawa's script with which he was working. After this experience, the director took to frequently writing his own films, notably Sonatine' (1993), Hana-bi' (1997) and the American set Brother' (2000). In his first film he was confronted with a story that had vague echoes of such tough police procedural thrillers as Dirty Harry' (1971) as well as being predicated around the Nipponese Yakuzi revenge drama.
Police Detective Azume (Kitano) is the morose, violent cop of the title, who became a detective `through friends', constantly in trouble with his superiors for roughing up suspects. Like Siegal's Inspector Harry Callahan, at times he is virtually indistinguishable from the crooks he persecutes. `We sell guns' he jokes convincingly at one point to a bar girl who as asked what he and his partner do for a living. Even the dialogue supports an analogy: `Write a mitigating statement' demands Azuma's boss. `The usual'. `I want some drugs' says someone later on: `What sort?' `The usual'. Like Siegal's anti-hero, too, his life is subject to personal trauma: Dirty Harry's wife was killed leaving him an embittered loner, while Azume's sister is mentally deficient. (This seam of personal grief also informs the later Hana-bi', where, again playing a police inspector Kitano learns his wife is terminally ill). There's another resemblance to Dirty Harry' in that Callahan has his double' in the killer he so obsessively hunts as Azume's brutality and callousness is mirrored by the yakuza assassin Kiyohiro. Although sworn to each other's destruction, the fate of each is inexorably intertwined, and their moralities blur.
Loyalties are no clearer elsewhere. Azuma discovers that his friend and colleague, Iwaki, is supplying drugs from within the police force. Helped in his investigation, he has a new partner, Kikuchi, to whom he acts disdainfully, borrowing money and offering little advice or friendship (in the Dirty Harry films there are a stream of partners' Inspector Callahan rejects and abuses.) By the end of this film however, Kikuchi steps neatly into the shoes left by the deceased Iwaki, and the film ends on the busy typewriter in the new drug baron's office. Business is carrying on as normal after the `craziness' of the Azume-Kiyohiro feud, and the struggle between cop and gangster has been a temporary, personal aberration.
As can be deduced from this description, none of the plot is particularly fresh. What makes the film remarkable is Kitano's handling of the material and his own impact as an actor on screen. Some viewers have identified an alleged dullness' in the film, better viewed as Kitano's distinctive way of distributing tension. For instance Azuma and Kiyohiro stare at each other, at length and in silence, three times during the course of the film. In each case one or both of the characters is presumed close to the point of death. Such contemplation in extremis is hardly a dull moment, more a reflection of the personal honour at stake and of the gravity of the encounter. When violence does erupt, it is explosive and sudden made more so by the mute suspense of the preceding scenes. Whether sudden and unexpected (the schoolgirl's head struck by a stray bullet as Azuma and Kiyohiro struggle in the street), or extended and moody (the struggle between the cop and the escaping drug dealer armed with a baseball bat), Kitano's presentation is stylised and arranged. Its another hallmark of a director whose formalism can be seen as one characteristic of the best Japanese cinema.
Previously only familiar to western audiences through Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence' (1983), Kitano the actor often has a glum determination about him, entirely in line with the roles he sets himself to play. For home audiences, more used to seeing him as a TV host, the effect of his cop film must have been disturbing, to say the least. (Azume's coldness is cracked only one occasion, when he is taunted into rage about his sister, as even the death of Iwaki has no visible effect on him.) The effect must be roughly akin to seeing UK's Noel Edmonds or USA's David Letterman playing Popeye' Doyle. Arguably, the violence of Violent Cop' is on viewer preconceptions as much as the criminal fraternity. Recommended.
Kitano cripples the senses and jars the nerves in his films. This is a movie about a two-fisted cop whose blunt face and cliff's edge personality drive every scene, even the ones Kitano is not in. Kitano's character is not reacting to a violent world, but infecting it with his own brand of violence. The "violent cop" has lost his hope, therefore he fears nothing.
Kitano as director gives us a real world of humor and interaction. Events happen, there's no plot. Every scene has this pulse that is raging, the characters even when still seem kinetic as sprinters. Punches, kicks, and bullets explode bodies. Kitano's character clashes with a psychotic hit man, but it is Kitano's cop who is out of control, unstoppable in his desire to inflict justice as he sees it.
There's scenes which cannot be forgotten: Kitano's cop
interrogates a punk drug dealer in a club rest room. These two actors go through a scene in which Kitano slaps this man over and over until he talks. The difference is that Kitano is really slapping this actor, and slapping living hell out of him. Cringe-worthy, and up there with one of the other scenes that illustrates what a hard man Kitano is: stabbed with a knife, Kitano grips the blade as it comes out of him, clinching his fist down on it so he cannot be stabbed again. Blood pours out from between his fingers, he cannot let it go because his fist and knife are one; Kitano understands the brutality of the fight, the reality of two men trying to kill each other, no quips, no words, no yells or curses, just blood and rage; cut to the bone, it's the way the whole film makes you feel.
As far as the recent BROTHER is concerned, it makes perfect sense for Kitano to use similar themes seen in his earlier films. BROTHER is Kitano's first real attack on American audiences. They, en mass, haven't seen his stuff, and if Kitano's going over old ground, he's doing it in HIS style. Better a retread Kitano than most of Hollywood's slobbering star-cramped idiocy.
Yes, it´s true: all the real great movies of the 1990s seem to be produced in the land of the rising sun! This dark cop thriller is no exclusion, because "Violent Cop" is suspense-packed, dramatic, sinister - and the actors don´t say a word too much! The dark poetry often reminded me on the films of Paul Schrader or Abel Ferrera as well as the visual brilliance and the excellent cinematography this Japanese gem contains! And, of course, main actor Takeshi Kitano is the new God of Eastern cinema! Masterpieces like "Brother" or "Hana Bi" blew my mind, and his performance of the emotional broken cop is powerful and amazing! A highly recommended film!!!
Violent cop is an excellent film in the league of cops versus hoodlums genre.What is amazingly unique about it is that even though maverick master Kitano has always maintained close proximity to the sphere of Japanese Yakuza gangs,he has nevertheless been able to portray a concise,crisp,candid vision of the sordid milieu of the Japanese cops. While watching it,I was mesmerized by its mellifluous soundtrack which has some of the most haunting effects ever recreated for a film.As far as similarities with Dirty Harry are concerned one must look at that aspect from cultural point of view.In Kitano's film there is good deal of respect for family relations. I don't know whether the same holds true for Eastwood's film.It can be said that those liking this film will be impressed by one of its opening sequences which best exemplifies the notion that the method adopted is acceptable if the results achieved are satisfactory. All in all this film is a decent commentary about the sorry state of affairs of Japanese police system which is not at all different from those of other countries.
This is one of those movies I had to see as soon as I saw the title.
Come on. VIOLENT COP. No fartin' around and making us wonder what it's
about, like Sonatine or Hana-Bi (Fireworks).
It's easy to assume this was some Japanese Dirty Harry knockoff, but it's more flawed and interesting than that. There is a certain nihilism in its disconcerting juxtaposition of oddball comedy and pitch-black neo-noir. It'll make your head spin how suddenly it swan-dives into really uncomfortable rape & revenge territory, and then bounces back into something that's supposed to be... quirky...? I guess? Whatever the case, you need to realize you're getting into serious auteur territory here.
Kitano's a very idiosyncratic director, and his quirks were in full swing even this early on in his career. His approach is one of obsessive stillness, silence and poignancy occasionally punctuated by jarring bursts of violence. I'd be hard-pressed to name a director who glamorizes violence any less; it's downright ugly and scary, despite the constant winks that let you know not to take any of it too seriously. For all the grit and nihilism though, there is a strangely dreamy, impressionistic undercurrent beneath it all that's basically humanistic. The intentionally awkward, plodding car chase through some busy alleys midway through the film is of particular note, and ranks among the few chase scenes that have ever really amused or gripped me in a movie.
It's weird to me how Kitano always casted himself as a ruthless jerk. He's a stout, personable little guy with the face of a teddy bear. Overcompensating or something? Here he is of course the no BS rulebreaker cop; he beats some punk kid who attacks an old man; he witnesses a domestic dispute in the police department, and lays the boyfriend out (being male, of course, he was at fault). etc. As other reviewers have noted, he has no real character arc, which isn't helped by Kitano's autistically fixed half-smile-going-on-frown; he is only humanized somewhat by his ambiguously mentally ill sister.
As a result, the point of the film is a tad mysterious. It's a tonally interesting little ride with a slight art-house slant, but its message could be written on the head of a pin. I always got the feeling Kitano never really knew quite what he was doing (often with very moving, creative results, mind you) and the critics read into things too much, and Violent Cop supports that hypothesis. However, it's probably one of his best films because in many ways it just is what it is, and doesn't bite off more than it can chew.
There is no doubt in my mind that Takeshi Kitano is one of the greatest
cinematic geniuses alive, and his nihilistic 1989 directorial debut is
a fantastic proof for that. "Sono otoko, kyôbô ni tsuki" aka. "Violent
Cop" is one of the rawest, most uncompromising cop films ever made,
and, at the same time, arguably one of the most promising debut films
ever delivered. Due to its 'unorthodox cop' premise, the film is often
compared to films like the "Dirty Harry" series or "Bad Lieutennant".
The stone-faced and irascible copper Azuma (brilliant performance by
director Kitano, under his acting name 'Beat Takeshi'), is ten times
dirtier than Harry ever was and incomparably more ruthless than the
Baddest New York Lieutennant. Azuma could even give the
ultra-unorthodox coppers in 70s Italian Poliziotteschi flicks a lesson
in police violence. At least most violent cops in 70s exploitation
cinema did what they did to protect society from scumbags, whilst Azuma
does it out of anger, and he does not even bother asking questions
before beating confessions out of criminals. Honestly, "Violent Cop"
beats everything in the copper-flick field in its incredibly nihilistic
premise, and yet it finds the time for slower moments, and Kitano's
typically absurd and ingeniously black humor.
Detective Azuma (Kitano), and irascible homicide detective hates the criminal as he hates the crime, and he does not attempt to hide this attitude. His unorthodox methods, which include the severe beating of suspects, have caused him trouble with his superiors in the past, but Azuma does not seem to care. When ruthless Yakuza gangsters make things personal, they have to realize that they might have made an enemy whose relentlessness easily equals theirs...
I would love to further discuss the film's ingenious plot, but I do not want to spoil anything, as every true film lover should be able to experience the greatness of "Violent Cop". Unlike Kitano's other films, for which Kitano himself wrote the stories, this film is an adaptation of a novel by Hiashi Nozawa. Kitano's work, however, is ingenious, as screenwriter, director and leading man of this film. There is no other director who is capable of combining brutal nihilistic violence, tragedy and (black) comedy as effectively as Kitano does. Asked about the violence in his films in an interview, Kitano himself has once stated that nobody could possibly want to reproduce the violence seen in his films, simply because it is painful to look at. And it is true, hardly another director makes the pain caused by the violence as obvious as Kitano does. Kitano has a unique stamina when showing violence, which makes the viewer almost feel the pain. I don't want to spoil anything by giving an example - see this film and know what I am talking about. At the same time Kitano always has moments that are absurdly comical. As all Kitano protagonists, Azuma, even though an irascible and violent man, has a very odd sense of humor. His response to a barmaid's question what he does for a living is just one example for that. Also in a typical Kitano-manner, the film takes the time for slower parts in-between, like Azuma crossing a bridge for example.
Kitano is as great as leading man as he is as director here. His stoic performance as Azuma is brilliant. The stone-faced copper always has a poker face, but it is nonetheless obvious that he is boiling in fury - how many other actors could be predestined for a role like this as Kitano is. No one, in my opinion. It is Kitano's performance which carries this film, and yet the other performances are also excellent. Hakuryu is particularly excellent as a sadistic Yakuza hit-man. Maiko Kawakami is also very convincing as Azuma's mentally disturbed sister. The rest of the cast includes several great character actors who have since become regulars in Kitano's films, such as Ittoku Kishihe as a Yakuza boss or Makoto Ashikawa as Azuma's young colleague. Lovers of Italian cult-cinema, by the way will be delighted to see a scene in which Kitano brilliantly pays tribute to Sergio Martino's Giallo "La Coda Dello Scorpione" (1971). "Violent Cop" is greatly shot and accompanied by an insanely brilliant score. Kitano's use of music in his films is another part of his brilliance, and really has to be experienced instead of explained.
All said, "Violent Cop" is a unique cinematic experience that must not be missed. Ultraviolent, nihilistic, sometimes slow in detail and more often fast and incredibly raw, brutal, sometimes tragic and sometimes oddly comical, this is the uncompromising masterpiece that marks the beginning in the cinematic career of one of today's most brilliant filmmakers. And, apart from his unmatched 1997 masterpiece "Hana-Bi" (aka. "Fireworks"), Kitano's debut still ranks among his greatest accomplishments. A true must!
I find it very difficult to rate a movie like this, as most of its interest is in who made it and how it points to his much superior later movies like Hana-bi. The script here is obviously just a standard actioner - the usual elements we've all seen a million times are there, the hard man cop with his innocent rookie partner, his one weakness (in this case, his sister), his 'no nonsense get things done attitude'. But this being Kitano, its full of mysterious, compelling scenes that in themselves often don't often make sense. The ending was never really in doubt, but the fascination of Takeshi movies is how he gets there. There really is nobody out there making movies quite like him now - such weird blends of Japanese sensibility, American action tropes and European art movie editing and camera-work. It shouldn't work, but somehow it does. Violent Cop is nowhere near his best work so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone curious about watching it, but its certainly worth a view for those who have seen his later movies and want to explore his strange vision of the world.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I love Takeshi Kitano. There I go, outing myself again (in a cinematic
sense at least). Seriously, I could watch this guy all day - even in
that dross JOHNNY MNEMONIC. If he didn't exist, you'd have to invent
him. He looks perfect - like some eternally world-weary tough guy...
with his constantly frowning face and slight limp, you really get the
idea the world tried to chew him up but he was just too hard to swallow
so it spat him out. And here in VIOLENT COP it's just perfect.
Takeshi plays Azuma; an old-school, hard-boiled cop. He's undiplomatic, tactless, rude, and liable to try and solve problems with his fists. Within the first five minutes of the film we see his methods in action as he deals with a local juvenile delinquent - he just walks into the kids house, bluffs past a concerned mother and proceeds to beat the hell out of the kid. He leaves with a promise to come back if the kid doesn't turn himself in, convincing you that he might not be a nice guy, but he sure gets results.
Azuma, being one of the older cops in a precinct filling up with young hotshots who want to make their names busting mobsters, is a loner. Suddenly dumped with a green-about-the-gills rookie for a partner, Azuma pulls out all the stops to prove how his "methods" and desire to remain a solo cop are correct. He takes advantage of the youngster, bumming money off him and embarrassing him in public, and openly planting evidence as they try to break up a local drugs ring. When a whiff of massive police corruption rears its head, you already know this is going to end badly, considering Azuma's rough brand of justice could never be bought off.
He does have a redeeming side though, in his care for his younger sister, recently released from a hospital and living in a childlike state of obliviousness. He plays the caring big brother to the hilt - right down to roughing up some guy he finds in bed with her one afternoon (I challenge anyone not to laugh as he clouts her randy suitor into his clothes, down the stairs, up the street and right to the bus-stop). Another great sequence features Azuma's take on solving a domestic abuse case - he beats the aggrieved girl's boyfriend up in the stationhouse corridor, telling him he should respect her more between kicks. As you can imagine, his commander hates his behaviour, and several scenes revolve around his less-than-clean methods.
While the first half is quite humorous in a dark way, things become blacker and more nihilistic when Azuma's sister is kidnapped by the local drug pushers. Almost like a ship losing its anchor, he goes right over into the shadows and stops slapping people about and starts shooting them, all leading up to a desperately grim conclusion, with a cynical twist that is at once sickening and almost completely expected.
VIOLENT COP is an unflinching movie, it does not shy away from showing the audience some pretty grim scenes, and sometimes while the repeated cloutings he gives the scum of the city are amusing, they often continue into a more sadistic vein. By the end, this demon in Azuma comes full circle and once unleashed cannot be put back in its bottle. The movie is unsettling, and it creeps up on you suddenly, stopping any laughter in its tracks. It's a dark movie, broken up by moments of tranquillity and humour despite the harsh reality it takes place in.
While VIOLENT COP might not be everyone's cup of tea, it certainly is a great, hard-boiled crime movie. Just don't be too shocked when it takes its inevitable trip into bleak seriousness. This movie is called WARNING - THIS MAN IS WILD in some parts of the world, and in this case, they really are not kidding.
In which our hero stomps around town like a bear with a sore head,
bitch-slapping everyone in sight.
Violent Cop was originally conceived as a comedy, before Kitano re-wrote it as a drama, fearing an international audience would miss the subtlety of his comedy acting. I'm not convinced it was completely re-written though - Kitano, accompanied by a theme tune that sounds like something out of Laurel and Hardy, deadpans his way through acts of casual violence, defying you to take it seriously. From head-butting a teenager in his bedroom, to repeatedly slapping a drug dealer in the toilets of a bar, to kicking the crap out of his own sidekick, the violence is unnecessary to the point of farce.
The film's plot is thin at best. Kitano plays Azuma, a poor man's Dirty Harry; a renegade cop dragged into a low-level corruption case involving a small-time dealer called Nito, whose supply line leads back to the police. The case, like Azuma's job, is incidental and he becomes embroiled in a personal vendetta with Nito's henchman, an equally sociopathic nut job. The film plays out as a classic revenge tragedy, amassing an impressive body count along the way. The characters are little more than cut-outs; a backdrop for the exposition of Azuma's psychosis.
While it's far from Kitano's best work - probably his worst in fact - the seeds of his unique visual style are sown in Violent Cop. But the still, lingering shots, interspersed with explosive violence, which would be used to such devastating effect in later films, are largely farcical here.
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