Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Hisashi Nozawa and Takeshi Kitano
Cinematographer: Yasushi Sasakibara
Producer: Shôzô Ichiyama, Toshio Nabeshima, and Takio Yoshida
by Jon Cvack
This is my first film from Takeshi Kitano who’s been called the Clint Eastwoood of Japan. Azuma is a suited police detective who’s willing to step far beyond the line of duty in order to bring down the bad guys. The first fifteen minutes is a long and dragged out sequence following Azuma as he moves from accosting kids to then beating the shit out of random alleged crooks. Somewhere in between his sister is kidnapped and Azuma presumes to hunt down those responsible. I started this film, got about a half in, couldn’t return to it for a week, started it over again and still had no idea what was going on.
Once you catch onto the plot and how it’s completely insignificant, you realize that the movie is very much an exercise in stunts and violence. In one scene, Azuma breaks into an apartment. The camera then moves to the bottom of the apartment stairs where the man is then thrown down. It’s not that it looks real. It is real. The man could have broken his neck or cracked his head open and luckily rolled down the steps and into the railing.
At only a quarter in, from there a film is one incredible sequence after another, with the plot serving little beyond a MacGuffin. In a bizarre scene, as Azuma and some other morally corrupt officers chase down a suspect in a car as he’s running down the street, rather than some intense action score, Kitano utilizes a smooth - or smoothish - jazz score. They then corner the guy who proceeds to take a pipe he finds and smash every single car window; the camera inside, all shot in a single take and the jazz doesn’t stop.
Another scene involves a bird’s eye shot of another suspect on a roof, crawling forward, away from Azuma until he reaches the roof’s edge, flipping himself to drop off where in a long lens, we then look up from the ground floor as he hangs from the roof by his fingertips. Azuma then pulls out a switchblade and slices his fingers open which causes him to drop.
By this point we’re convinced that Azuma is a complete psychopath and his police chief demands he hands over his gun and badge. It doesn’t stop him and the film culminates in a scene so brutal and intense it matches any of Tarantino’s bloodiest moments. After the sister has been getting raped and shot up with heroin for the last two hours, the crime boss proceeds to execute his lackies who refuse to fight the cops; blowing their heads off and stabbing them dead before Azuma tracks them down to an empty warehouse where the pair play a game of gun fight chicken; Azuma charging toward the man, getting struck with bullet after bullet before blowing the boss's head off; his sister then appearing from the shadows, scrounging to find some heroin and Azuma shoots her down..
Takeshi Kitano plays Azuma, and like Clint Eastwood, it looks like the majority of his films involved this type of renegade cop. The difference is in the brutality. While Eastwood and other hard boiled American films like this involve comparably violent scenes, Kitano limits his cuts, showing the violence in all its actuality, making it just absurd and entertaining enough to avoid it simply horrifying the audience.
BELOW: Smooth jazz and violence
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