The Film (4.5/5)
Detective Azuma (Takeshi Kitano) is a dirty cop who stops at nothing to catch the bad guys. Azuma’s life is suddenly shaken when his Best friend, Vice cop Iwaki (Sei Hiraizumi), turns out to be involved with the yakuza and is found dead. The case is closed because it looks like a suicide. Not convinced that Iwaki would kill himself, Azuma starts taking the fight to the yakuza bosses. His sister is then kidnapped. With the pressure building, Azuma is determined to get even and cause as much damage as possible.
Director Takeshi Kitano is one of the more unusual of mainstream Japanese filmmakers. A creator of both poetic yakuza epics and quieter art house faire. Aboard he is known especially for his ultraviolent Yakuza tales that mix sudden shocking violence, slow burn build ups, off beat dry comedy, and touching character moments. But back in Japan, Kitano is an entertainment giant. He truly is a unique artist who just explodes with creative freedom. He is a Comedian, Actor, TV host, writer, director, editor, singer, painter, author, and poet. His main rise to fame was as part of a comedy team called the “Two Beats”, where he went by the stage name of Beat Takeshi. With VIOLENT COP (1989), Kitano would shock the world with the start of his brilliant film career as a Director.
Originally started as a comedy to be directed by the legendary Kinji Fukasaku, VIOLENT COP was soon drastically rewritten when Kitano, who was already cast in the film, had taken over as director. The movie was then turned into a dark, bleak, and deadpan comic Police drama in the mold of DIRTY HARRY. Here we see Kitano’s mission statement of style. But what’s interesting about this film is how traditional it is compared to some of his later films, like BOILING POINT, BROTHER, and his fun house mirror adaptation/ remake of ZATOICHI. The plot unwinds in a normal three act structure and the characters all have clear motivations. What makes the movie so offbeat is the use of extended takes, sudden cuts or jumps into violence, and the shocking nature of said violence where literally anyone could die at any moment. The action scenes are fantastic for a first-time director. The shoot outs are unpredictable and two of the film’s biggest highlights are the foot/ car chase and the torture scene in the police locker room.
Kitano makes Azuma a very unlikeable character. He is short tempered, a con man, and a bit of a sexist pig. But nothing is quite black and white in this movie. He still comes off as a caring man when it comes to his sister’s safety and the sense of regret over his actions can be felt. Makoto Ashikawa (FIREWORKS (aka HANA BI)) is a fun supporting character, as the rookie who has a shocking TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA style twist. Maiko Kawakami (TOMIE UNLIMITED) is heartbreaking as Azuma’s sister. Hakuryu (BEYOND OUTRAGE) is a menacing yet understandable villain as one of the yakuza henchmen who has a fondness for knives. One of the more entertaining performances comes from Shiro Sano (GODZILLA 2000, GODZILLA MOTHRA KING GHIDORAH MONSTERS ALL OUT ATTACK) as the new police captain who secretly enjoys Azuma’s extreme habits.
This Film Movement Classics Blu-ray is a huge improvement on the Old Wellspring DVD, which had a dark color correction and interlacing problems. Both sound and picture are near perfect, and the film has never looked as good on home video. The DTS-HD Master Audio Japanese Stereo mix sounds excellent, with a great sound mix. The effects and background noises sound crystal clear, with some loud and painful sounding gun shots and broken glass. The soundtrack is fine-tuned and quite lovely. English subtitles are included.
The 1080p HD transfer gives new life to this film. It was like seeing the movie for the first time. Everything is so clear and unlike some of the older DVDs, you can see full details which adds depth to every scene. The black levels are well balanced. The color correction is brighter and the image has a nice warmness. Some of the night scenes are truly marvelous, showcasing sharp focus on the Japanese night life that was missing or too blurry on the old US DVD.
The main extra feature is a 20-minute documentary called “That Man is Dangerous: The Birth of Takeshi Kitano”. The featurette is packed with trivia and info on the film’s production including Kinji Fukasaku’s (YAKUZA PAPERS, MESSAGE FROM SPACE) original involvement, Producers pushing the film as an event for Beat Takeshi making his first film, choice of actors, the original script as a comedy, and finally screenwriter Hisashi Nozawa trying to remove his name from the finished film. Next up is the original Japanese theatrical trailer, as well as the newly produced 2016 Blu-ray trailer. As included is a trailer gallery of future releases and Film Movement Classics’ promo reel. A booklet of liner notes featuring an essay by Tom Vick and production notes are also included.
VIOLENT COP is just one of the most enjoyable Japanese crime films of all time, and it showed yet another exciting side of Takeshi Kitano’s creative output. The movie would lay the ground work for the rest of his career and this world is a better place for that. Film Classics Movement has done a wonderful job bringing this classic to US Blu-ray, with Audio and Video out of this world. Highly Recommended.
*The actual packaging of the Blu-ray is secure and has some good production stills, but the newly created cover artwork is baffling. It just seems too random and the small touches like raining syringes horribly miss sales the movie. I would’ve preferred an original Japanese poster.