Violent Cop
Film Movement // Unrated // $39.95 // October 11, 2016
Review by Ian Jane | posted October 10, 2016
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
R E V I E W S
Graphical Version

The Movie:

The directorial debut of "Beat" Takeshi Kitano, 1989's Violent Cop opens with a scene where a gang of teenagers assault a homeless man and leave him beaten and bloodied. This assault is witnessed by a cop named Azuma (played by Kitano himself), who follows the leader of the group home. His mother answers the door, he pushes his way in, and heads up to the youth's room where he then proceeds to bitch slap him in the face over and over and over again. He relents only when the kid agrees to gather up his buddies and go to the police station and confess.

Azuma is a rare honest cop, but he's clearly got disdain for a certain segment of society. Soon after the opening, his superior teams him up with a rookie named Kikuchi (Makoto Ashikawa). When the two investigate a murder related to Tokyo's drug trade, the uncover some evidence that ties Sazmua's friend Iwaki (Shigeru Hiraizumi) to a Yakuza boss named Nito (Ittoku Kishibe) and his psychotic right hand man Kiyohiro (Hakuryu). Iwaki's connections in the vice squad division make sense out of this relationship, but Sazuma intends to see that justice is served. All the while, unbeknownst to most of his fellow officers, he spends his spare time looking after his mentally handicapped sister Akira (Maiko Kawakami). When Azuma catches up with Kiyohiro and beats him far brutally than any cop should beat someone, he's dismissed from the force. By this point, however, he's in too deep. The Yakuza aren't going to just let this slide…

Kitano goes a long way in this picture to make sure we know that his Azuma is very much alone in this world. He does this not just with his portrayal and acting style (Azuma is a man of few words and shows little interest in socializing) but also with some interesting camerawork. The most obvious example happens early in the film when the camera remains stationary and we see him slowly but deliberately walk from one side of an arched bridge to the other. There is no one else around him, he's clearly going solo. That theme continues throughout the movie, and while his partner shows loyalty to him, it's almost as if he doesn't want it or can't accept it. They work together when they can but even in some of the lighter moments they share, there's an awkward tension between them.

As quiet and solemn as he is, however, Azuma is also a man capable of extreme violence. The way that the violence in the film is used is worth noting. When action happens, it's not over the top or stylized. There's no flashy choreography and it remains wholly grounded in reality. When Azuma slaps his suspects, which is often, he does it with unflinching conviction. The movie captures this in disturbing detail. When someone gets hit, you feel it. When someone gets shot, it hurts. There's nothing glorious or even exciting about the use of force in this movie, rather, it's meant to unsettle the audience and it's incredibly effective.

The story moves at a reasonable pace. It's not particularly fast but neither is it slow. There are a lot of long, lingering, static shots used throughout the movie to help accentuate certain aspects of certain characters. This also serves to build tension in a few key scenes, particularly in the last half hour of the movie. The score is very minimalist but no less effective for it. The music suits the tone of the movie, never attempting to pull at our heart strings or ask for our sympathy or, on the flip side, pull us to the edge of our seats. The suspense instead comes from the strong performances from all involved, the well-written characters, the realistic situations and the superb direction.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Violent Cop arrives on a 50GB Blu-ray from Film Movement framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded transfer. While the image is definitely on the soft side, the transfer itself is very good. There aren't any issues with compression artifacts thanks to the solid bit rate and the image appears to be free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. Any print damage that shows up is minor, and color reproduction is pretty good even if black levels are a bit less than perfect in some scenes. Skin tones look good and there's a reasonable amount of depth to the image. Detail is good, but never reference quality though this appears to have more to do with the source than with the transfer itself. Having said that, if you've seen the previous non-anamorphic domestic DVD release from some time ago, you'll notice a massive improvement in picture quality here over that disc.

Sound:

Audio options are provided in Japanese language LPCM 2.0 with removable subtitles available in English only. The Japanese lossless track sounds fine. Levels are nicely balanced throughout and the score has good depth to it in spots, as do the occasional sound effects used throughout. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and dialogue stays clean and clear from start to finish.

Extras:

The main extra on the disc is a twenty-minute featurette entitled That Man Is Dangerous: The Birth of Takeshi Kitano. It's an interesting look back at the film made up of interviews with people who knew Kitano but that is unfortunately devoid of any input from the man himself. Regardless, there's discussion here as to his directing style, some of the themes that work their way into his output and a fair bit more. It's an interesting piece that fans should appreciate.

Rounding out the extras on the first disc are the film's original theatrical trailer, a trailer for the film's 2016 reissue, trailers for a few other Film Movement releases, menus and chapter selection. Inside the clear Blu-ray case along with the disc is an advertising insert showing off other Film Movement releases as well as a nice color booklet containing credits for the feature as well as an essay by Tom Vick on the film.

Final Thoughts:

Film Movement's Blu-ray release of Violent Cop might not off the most amazing transfer you've ever seen but it does present the film in far better shape than we've ever seen it before and if the image isn't perfect, it is still quite good. Throw in decent lossless audio and an interesting featurette alongside a few other supplements and this is a pretty nice package overall. As to the movie itself, it's an excellent, tense and remarkably well made cop drama made all the better by Kitano's performance in the lead. Highly recommended.



Copyright 2017 Kleinman.com Inc. All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy DVDTalk.com is a Trademark of Kleinman.com Inc.