No less eccentric than its successors, Violent Cop features Kitano beating drug-dealer butt and stepping on authority's toes to the accompaniment of an infectious theme that reconfigures a melancholy Eric Satie refrain into something more appropriate to the video game Tetris. Impassive, slightly quizzical, smiling no more than once or twice during the whole movie, the star is most expressive when socking someone. Kitano's put-upon police officer never misses an opportunity to stomp a suspecteven kicking his own partner when he gets in the way. "You're violently wild and stupid," the cop's superior explains, but departmental discipline has no effect; the movie's Japanese title translates as Warning: This Man Is Dangerous.
Not unlike Toshiro Mifune (the last Japanese action star to intrude on American consciousness), Kitano uses a distinctive body language to telegraph his emotions. But where the young Mifune was eloquently hyperkinetic, middle-aged Kitano is a rock of concentration in a treacherous world. Violent Cop, which features no guns in its first half, is a film of pummeling physicalityit's been suggested that it recreates the distinctive rhythm of Kitano's heavy, hunched-over, off-kilter stride, as well as his surprise eruptions.
The central set piece is a botched drug bust in which the suspect takes out three detectives, decks a fourth in a slo-mo punch-out, then (to the accompaniment of some unlikely cocktail jazz) sprints through an unheeding workaday neighborhood, lethal baseball bat in hand. The prolonged, naturalistically grueling pursuit ends with Kitano ramming the perp with his squad car. Still, Kitanowho even in his first film is a wonderfully classical directormore typically uses long shots to muffle or defamiliarize mayhem. What's blatant is the sense of his "honest" rage at having to live amid cowardice and corruption.
Directed by Takeshi Kitano
Written by Hisashi Nozawa
At Cinema Village
Opens July 16
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