Boiling Point
Film Movement // Unrated // $39.95 // October 11, 2016
Review by Ian Jane | posted October 21, 2016
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version

The Movie:

'Beat' Takeshi Kitano's second directorial effort, made a year after his 1989 debut Violent Cop, follows Masaki (Yűrei Yanagi). He plays baseball for a local team called The Eagles but he's a klutz and frequently responsible for the kinds of mistakes that cost them wins. His teammates make him the butt of all their jokes but he just sort of brushes it off, not seeming to really care about much of anything one way or the other. When he's not playing baseball poorly, he's putting in as little effort as possible at his day job where he works at a filling station. During one of his shifts, a customer gets physical with him, causing Masaki to lash out and give what he got. Bad move. The guy Masaki just got rough with? He's a Yakuza.

Masaki doesn't have a lot of people he can turn to for help, but he does have a friendship with a bartender named Takashi Iguchi (Taka Guadalcanal). He used to run with a pretty tough crowd and has connections from his past in the Japanese underworld. Masaki figures Iguchi will be able to talk things over with the Yakuza boss and everything will be fine after that, but no dice. Things get violent and Iguchi is beaten almost to death, but given that it was almost to death and not completely to death, it stands to reason that he's going to want revenge. In order to do that, they're going to need some guns but Iguchi is in no shape to travel to get them. Masaki, owing the guy a debt for what he just did, steps in and with some help from his friend Kazuo (Minoru Iizuka), heads off to Okinawa. Once they're there, fate steps in and they meet a gangster named Mr. Uehara (Kitano himself). He'll help them get the guns they're looking for, once that is set into motion all bets are off.

A considerably more comedic film than his debut, with Boiling Point we still see Kitano dealing in some fairly dark territory. Violence is a tool that the man is not afraid to use but when he does, it always has impact. There are scenes in here that are meant to shock and meant to get a reaction from the audience, there's no doubt about that, but Kitano pulls it off with some nonchalant style that you never feel as if exploitation is coming into play here. Carefully treading the lines between a violent Yakuza genre picture, a quirky comedy and an arthouse drama, this movie serves as the perfect middle point between his debut and the masterpiece he would soon create with Sonatine three years later. It's interesting to note that all three films deal with gangsters (as do quite a few of his other pictures such as Brother and the two Outrage films) but they do so in different ways and from drastically different perspectives.

Kitano shows admirable control over the pacing of the film. Like its predecessor it moves at a very deliberate pace. There are scenes here that are little more than baseball being played on camera that at first appear to be there for no other reason than to include some scenes of baseball being played (it is very popular in Japan, after all). As the film progresses, what we see in these scenes and what they tell us about certain characters… it all starts to come into focus and mean something. As the film shifts to Okinawa and introduces Uehara, however, is when it really starts to grab your attention. Baseball is fine and everything but let's face it, gangster movies tend to be more fun and more memorable once we get to the requisite nutjob character and here said nutjob is played by Kitano himself. Those familiar with his acting style know that the guy has got a lot of talent and a real knack for playing unpredictable and dangerous types. As such, he is very well cast here and an absolute blast to watch. The supporting players all do fine work as well, but Kitano does steal pretty much every scene he's involved with. Like many of his best pictures, the film often times contrasts scenes of absurd humor and strong violence with scenes of peace, calm and natural beauty. It's a tactic that has worked well for him over the years and allowed him to develop a style all his own that still remains unpredictable and engaging.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Bioling Point arrives on a 50GB Blu-ray from Film Movement framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded transfer. Like the transfer we saw for Violent Cop the image here is a bit on the soft side but again, for the most part the transfer itself is very good (Boiling Point does look a bit better than the earlier film). There aren't any issues with compression artifacts thanks to a strong bit rate and the image is free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. Any print damage that shows up is very minor, the picture is quite clean for the most part. Color reproduction is pretty good and black levels are fine. Skin tones look good and there's a good 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 Okinawa Days: Takeshi's Second Debut. 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 Kitano himself. Regardless, there's discussion here as to his directing style, how certain actors sort of learned their craft on the set having come to this picture with little or no experience, the way that Kitano uses comedy in this particular film and how the producers of the picture worked alongside the director to get the picture made.

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 Boiling Point is a good one, offering up one of the director's best films in nice shape, with good audio and an interesting featurette as its best extra feature. The film itself holds up very well, a darkly comedic look at violence and honor among thieves delivered in Kitano's inimitable style. Highly recommended.



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