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Review: Violent Cop

I’ve decided to take a break from theatrical releases this weekend in order to catch up on my home video consumption. On today’s menu: Violent Cop, the directorial debut of Japanese comedian, singer, gameshow host, painter, and one-time video game designer “Beat” Takeshi Kitano.

I’ve been a huge fan of Kitano’s offbeat (no pun intended) approach to genre storytelling—particularly his stark and emotionally devastating depictions of violence—ever since I discovered Hana-bi and Dolls back in college. While Violent Cop portrays more explicit, onscreen brutality than those understated masterpieces, the freshman filmmaker still takes time to observe and contemplate the consequences of senseless bloodshed. In my absolute favorite scene, for example, a stray bullet splatters an innocent bystander’s brains across the wall behind her. The poor girl’s friend screams as she flees the grisly scene—all while the eponymous loose cannon detective and his sadistic would-be assassin continue to duke it out in the street, utterly oblivious to the collateral damage. Even the climactic shootout is deliberately unglamorous, stripping away any pretense of context, leaving only two broken, hateful men pumping each other full of lead.

Violent Cop’s deconstruction of its protagonist’s ultimately fragile “tough guy” persona, as well as its pervasive undercurrent of nihilism and cynicism, clearly demonstrate that, although he was still learning the language of cinematic expression (the film’s pacing is wildly inconsistent, and its tone fluctuates unpredictably between darkly comic and just plain dark), Kitano already possessed the unique authorial voice that would define his later efforts. Sure, it lacks some polish, but like Nolan’s Following or The Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple, it offers a fascinating glimpse at an auteur’s favorite themes and techniques in their earliest, rawest forms. I’m thrilled to have it as part of my collection, warts and all.

[Originally written March 25, 2017.]

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