THIS MOVIE SUCKS!
For years I've been hearing about a Japanese stand-up comic that turned his hand to writing, directing and starring in ultra-violent gangster flicks. The guy's name is Beat Takeshi
, and I finally got around to getting some of his films on DVD. I'm not really sure it was worth my time.
The movie he's most famous for is probably Violent Cop
. It shows a Japanese policeman who's very effective, but also incredibly brutal. This film shocked Japanese audiences by portraying their "crime free society" (heh heh) as riddled with drug dealers, crime organizations and assassins. The most radical departure from the perceived reality was the way the tide of lawlessness was kept at bay by the violent tactics of the beloved police, and the way the police administrators would turn a blind eye to the illegal use of force as long as it got results.
It's worth renting the film if you're interested in seeing the way that the Japanese view the role of law enforcement in their culture, and the way they view violence. But it gets really strange when the title character runs afoul of a paid assassin. Those in the film with weak personalities die easily when shot or stabbed, while the cop and assassin just kinda suck it up and keep on going even when they've been blasted with a shotgun at close range. Really weird.
Takeshi's best film is probably Fireworks
. He plays a police detective who's wife is terminally ill, but he's been kicked off the force and is without funds. So he robs a bank to get the cash he needs to take her on one last tour of Japan before the end. Along the way some Yakuza try and track him down to get a share of the loot.
I can see how Takeshi earned his rep after watching this one. It's told in a strange flashback style that takes some getting used to, but is certainly interesting (well, it's interesting the first time you see it. It would be annoying if they started using it all the time). The acting is first rate, with most of the actors never changing their expression yet you never have a problem realizing what they're feeling. Other than that, I'd have to say that it's very slow and I had a problem finding any sympathy for the characters. Worth a look if you've heard about Takeshi, or if you're a film student who's studying acting methods.
Takeshi's only English language film is Brother
, and it's only mostly in English. Good ol' beat plays a Yakuza made man who has to run for America when his boss loses a gang war. When he arrives he finds his brother struggling to survive as a lowlife street punk who runs drugs with three buddies. Beat quickly forges a drug empire by killing all rivals and demanding unswerving loyalty from his cronies. It works like a charm until he gets big enough to attract the attention of the Mafia.
I had a hard time finding something good to say about this rambling and disjointed film. The best that I could say is that it provides American audiences with a rare glimpse of Yakuza culture. Still, there are better films that do a better job
that aren't quite as boring.