Violent Cop (1989)

Director:  Takeshi Kitano
Cast:  Takeshi KitanoMaiko KawakamiMakoto Ashikawa
Plot:  A violence prone police officer discovers that his colleague is trafficking drugs.

Genre:  Action / Crime / Drama
Awards:  -
Runtime:  103min
Rating:  M18 for violence.

“Well, you've got good taste.”

There's a short scene in Violent Cop that sees Takeshi Kitano's character hitting baseballs with a bat.  Fast forward to his latest flick, the Yakuza sequel Outrage Beyond (2012) and there is an eerily similar scene, only that the baseballs that shoot out of the automated machine don't meet a wooden stick, but an immobile and semi-conscious person's face that gets increasingly bloody with each hit. 

That has been the essence of Kitano's work over two decades; his films are imbued with a sense of what I call “recycled originality”, which gives them an unmistakably Kitano-esque quality.  Kitano who often stars in his own directed films essentially plays the same few characters on opposite sides of the law.

Here, he is the violent cop.  He doesn't follow the book, breaks the law, and kicks and slaps his adversaries involuntarily.  He is like the Asian “Dirty Harry”.  In Violent Cop, he has to wage war on corrupted police officials and lowly gangsters dealing with drugs.  He doesn't care much about anything, even himself, and is just plain snotty.  Kitano has a screen presence that screams “don't f--- with me” and his performance is a delight to watch. 

Violence is a staple of Kitano's works and it calls attention to itself.  The shootouts are well-executed with a right balance of suspense and blood, proving that Kitano is a skilled entertainer with a flair for raw and gritty aesthetics.  His later crime films would become more polished, but never becoming more mellow.

Violent Cop is one of the more memorable first films by a new Asian filmmaker in the late 1980s.  Its uncompromising take on the cops-and-criminals thriller, so popularized by the Hong Kong crime cinema of John Woo, Johnnie To and many more, was a breath of fresh air for a country that had long been synonymous with samurai flicks, bleak parables on society and tradition, and anime - such are the films of Kurosawa, Ichikawa, Ozu, Mizoguchi, Oshima, Miyazaki, and numerous other Japanese masters.

Kitano's Violent Cop is an important jolt for Japanese cinema, an example of an audacious filmmaker vying to be recognized by an international audience with his unique brand of hard-hitting, nihilistic and strangely affecting cinema.

Verdict:  Kitano's explosive feature debut is the quintessential Japanese answer to raw, gritty, and yes, violent cop crime-dramas so prevalent in the late 1980s.


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