Takeshi Kitano, also known as Beat Takeshi, was primarily known as a comedian but, over time, became even better known as an action/adventure star.
Mr. Kitano has appeared in many works, including many films he’s directed, acted, and written. He’s also appeared in American films, including Ghost In The Shell and Johnny Mnemonic. He even appeared opposite David Bowie in the 1983 film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.
But for Mr. Kitano, one could say it was his first directorial work, Violent Cop, which really put him on the map. Here’s the movie’s trailer. Mr. Kitano not only directed, he stars in the film as Azuma, the proverbial Violent Cop…
I have to admit, I bought the film on a whim and because it was on sale. While watching it, I found it intriguing and entertaining but the reviews that stated it was a Japanese “Dirty Harry” seemed a little exaggerated.
For most of the film first couple of acts, we don’t see so much as a single gun!
This turned out to be a coldly calculated storytelling technique, because while the first forty or so minutes of the film allow you to enter Azuma’s world and all seems edgy but otherwise not out of this world, there are many dark edges peeking out, one of which is presented in the movie’s opening minutes…
The movie begins (MILD SPOILERS) with a truly perplexing -in a good way!- sequence where a homeless man is enjoying a meal before he’s attacked and beaten up by a bunch of youths. Given the way the man is left, the viewer wonders if he is still alive.
The young boys head home and one of them leaves the group to go to his house, which turns out to be in a nice neighborhood. Shortly after he arrives at the house, Detective Azuma shows up. He flashes his badge to the youth’s mother after she answers his knock, then heads up to the boy’s room where he proceeds to beat him up. He then tells the youth that he and his friends better turn themselves in the next day at the police station for what they did to the homeless man.
Questions are raised: If Azuma saw what the young boys were doing to the homeless man and followed at least one of them home, why didn’t he stop them while they were beating the poor guy up? Why did he wait for them to finish and go home before coming after one of them?
The answer, in a way, is revealed through the course of this movie, and the answer isn’t pleasant…at least with regard to Detective Azuma’s character.
The movie goes on, showing us what Azuma does. He’s assigned a rookie (a classic police drama cliche) to tag along with him and we also find he has a sister who he cares for but who has mental issues.
He also skirts the law and isn’t above beating up a potential snitch.
But I’ll repeat: The first forty or so minutes of the film lure you into a sense of false security, a sense that things are rough but not that rough.
Which makes the film’s conclusion all the more shocking, difficult to watch, and, yes, nihilistic as hell.
While watching the film to its end, I felt -wrongly as it turned out!- that this movie was influenced by the violence present in Quentin Tarantino’s early movies. While I’m aware Mr. Tarantino has cribbed from many works, including those released in Hong Kong and Japan, Violent Cop was released in 1989, three full years before Mr. Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs was released.
I could go into more and more of the film but I feel that would be counterproductive and involve way too many spoilers.
Suffice to say Violent Cop is a film that will shake you up and surprise you by how much it pushes the envelope. This is ultimately not a pleasant film but that’s what makes it work so exceedingly well. Having said that, it is also quite clearly not for everyone.
If what I’ve said above intrigues you, give Violent Cop a look-see. For everyone else, best you stay away.