Violent Cop (Takeshi Kitano / Japan, 1989):
(Sono otoko, kyobo ni tsuki)

The original translates as Warning: This Man is Wild, though the blunt English title precisely distills the adamantine abruptness of Takeshi Kitano. His hero is a deadpan stomper who just happens to be on the law’s side, he’s introduced inviting himself to a juvenile thug’s suburban home and negotiating a confession out of him with both fists. Dazed sister (Maiko Kawakami) and greenhorn partner (Makoto Ashikawa) watch the trajectory from rough rogue to screwball vigilante, his opposite number is the Yakuza torpedo (Hakuryu) operating a narcotics ring. "Police are sacred. Keep that in mind." A painter’s approach to cinema, or perhaps a sculptor’s, chisel stabs and all: To compose and to disfigure are the braided aesthetic ends, the grinning vagabond in the opening image is a dark-toned still life promptly disrupted by off-screen vandals. Borrowing money for bets when not taunting a suspect into taking a bullet, Kitano’s detective is an unblinking comic force continuously swatting at his corrupt surroundings. A certain frontality can be detected from Ozu, but the visual cunning is essentially singular: The slugger blow to the head that caps a slow-mo scuffle, an extended car chase through alleys that climaxes with a POV through a smashed windshield, an overhead shot of a street giving way to a tight close-up of a fist clenched bloodily around a switchblade. ("Know your limits," rasps the villain, and then there’s Satie gloominess reworked as jaunty electronic bleeps.) The absolutely annihilating vision builds up to a showdown in an empty warehouse, with blood and shadows on concrete walls and contorted bodies under the spotlight for a pellucid Kitano arrangement. Sollima’s Città Violenta is very much in evidence, the more baroque burlesque of Eastwood’s The Rookie is just over the rise. With Makoto Ashikawa, Shiro Sano, Shigeru Hiraizumi, Ittoku Kishibe, and Ken Yoshizawa.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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