Takeshi Kitano Collection (Violent Cop / Boiling Point / Sonatine) – Blu-Ray Review

Violent Cop

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Slow, constant, steady. Violent Cop is a contemplative movie, even as ruthless masculinity courses through its veins. This is a film about an unorthodox, dirty cop but is very tranquil for a movie of that kind. It shows the calmness of letting life happen, and through that comes an acceptance of violence. The bone-shattering violence is patiently shown, even if spurts are abrupt, and its nastiness is never downplayed.

The story goes dark places, the themes revealing a blackened soul so dead inside that it doesn’t care about being revealed. The ending is morally despicable, which seems counterintuitive but actually solidifies the idea that nihilistic living is ultimately futile (a somewhat meta-nihilism). Violent Cop is a strong-willed and confident picture, dedicated to its execution and not fragile like so many movies which break so easily when dealing with serious themes. Instead, every scene feels extraneous due to their meditative nature and so no single moment proves valuable to the film’s success. Instead, this is just one of those cool movies that takes it time. There is one moment when the tranquility is broken, in a sequence where the titular character is taunted about his sister, but that defining moment is the perfect setup for the film’s contradictory ending. 

Violent Cop is a mood piece filled with toxic characters and a calm amongst chaos. Takeshi Kitano hadn’t perfected his style in Violent Cop but nonetheless this is an assured depiction of a life lived without reason.

Boiling Point

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Boiling Point is a film in Takeshi Kitano’s trademark style of nasty violence in a tranquil world. The filmmaking is minimalist and filled with small does of humour. It’s a calmly paced film and one which also feels aimless, perhaps due to its complete absence of exposition or explanation. Personally I could get lost for days in the moody simplicity of Kitano’s films.

Unfortunately Boiling Point is a film of two halves and its second half is significantly weaker, being less peaceful and less real. The first half deals with the power of the yakuza through attempts to give up the gangster lifestyle whilst maintaining respect. The second half instead focuses on getting drawn deeper into the criminal world. Kitano himself plays a character and unusually lets the film down. His character’s relentless misogyny is just unpleasant and not used in a meaningful enough way. Some very dark moments (of rape and mutilation) simply don’t feel justified in the playful context surrounding Kitano’s character. This is the first film that Kitano wrote and it’s quite clear that it’s not as tonally controlled as it should be. 

Kitano’s direction however is a lot better. The slow and considered style is very compelling and the shots interesting in how much headroom they leave, with the bottom third of the screen so often containing all the action. Boiling Point is stylish and gripping, filled with enough intrigue to never be boring, but also containing far too many missteps to be a refined work.

Sonatine

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Takeshi Kitano’s unique brand of contemplative yakuza flicks really makes for something special. They are comfort movies, even though they are brutally violent and about unrepentant criminals. Scenes are calm and the violence is brief, if skull-shattering.

Sonatine is filled with static shots, because the film takes it time. It all unfurls very slowly as each scene passes by naturally. Each decision feels totally of its moment, reflecting Sonatine‘s depiction of a man learning as he goes. Never has chaos seemed more like a gentle breeze to just float on. Gangsterdom is peaceful here, with lives not uprooted and just being part of the expected system.

Sonatine has a dry sense of humour drawn from incongruity, with big shot gangsters in a shabby coach and a man who claims to not take drugs but does amphetamines. The film is essentially about big city gangsters finding tranquility in the coastal countryside. They discover moments of joy, through childish pranks, silly games, and just the enjoyment of company. 

Sonatine goes for a totally tranquil ending that allows death and suicide to be peaceful. These moments are of course not light, but the futility presented has a strange human warmth. These are bad people ending things before they do worse. 

Sonatine is incredibly quiet right to the end. Our violent world may never end but in our moments of contemplation we can see what we contribute to it. Like very few films, Sonatine presents us the rotting nihilism of society but smothers us in a comforting caress of humanity that reminds us why we should reject it.

The discs include commentary tracks on  Violent Cop and Sonatine by Chris D. of the great punk band The Flesh Eaters and also a film critic in his own right, Boiling Point‘s commentary is by David Jenkins of Little White Lies fame, some new docs on Kitano and his films, trailers and a 44 page booklet on the films with new writing by a range of different writers. 

★★★★

Darren Carver-Balsiger

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