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Boiling Point 
Written by: on June 30th, 2009

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, September, 1990
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Takeshi Kitano
Cast: Masahiko Ono, Takeshi Kitano, Yuriko Ishida, Takahito Iguchi, Minoru Iizuka

DVD released: May 4th, 2009
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1:85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Japanese
Subtitles: English (Removable)
DVD Release: Second Sight
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £19.99

Synopsis: Masaki is a well-meaning but dim-witted young man who lives in a small Japanese town. While working at his job as a patrol pump attendant, he disrespects a troublesome customer who turns out to be a member of the yakuza, causing a situation that could turn nasty for Masaki and those close to him. His baseball coach, who has connections with the organization, steps in and tries to resolve the matter peacefully, but receives a severe beating for his trouble. Angered by this, Masaki and his best friend Kazuo take off to Okinawa intent on buying a gun to avenge the dishonor that their coach has endured. During their search they fall in with Uehara, an unhinged and deeply psychotic gangster who promises the boys a weapon and takes them under his wing. Sadistic and clearly insane – at one point he forces his mistress to have sex with a friend, only to immediately rape the friend in retaliation of his ‘betrayal’ – Uehara is deemed dangerously unreliable by the yakuza and has been made an outcast. Holding a grudge, he is on his own self-destructive vendetta against the organization while Masaki and Kazuo helplessly go along with the plan.

While Takeshi Kitano’s directorial debut VIOLENT COP, in appearance at least, works within the framework of an established and straightforward police thriller format, peppered throughout were off-kilter details and character quirks that have since become trademark elements of the filmmaker’s style. His next effort BOILING POINT is far more outlandish and goes much further, with some critics arguing perhaps too far. It indulges in many of the same fixations as the previous picture – the acts of violence are blunt and indisputably shocking, Kitano’s sense of humor is dry and uniquely his – but, rather than being doodles within the margins of the storyline, they are now at the forefront of the overall structure. It is as if the slow-witted temperament of Masaki navigates the earlier sections of the story, while the self-destructive nature of the Uehara character begins to corrupt and fracture the reminder of the narrative, causing a darkly humorous yet ultimately unsettling experience. This is due to the fact that Kitano is not only working from a screenplay solely credited to him, but he is also developing his directorial technique: With no music score (bar an amusing karaoke sequence) and filmed in a calm, paired-down visual style that includes some effective uses of hand-held and wide-angle lens shots, the overall result is an occasionally bewildering yet always-mesmerizing film. Blessed with excellent performances by the deadpan Masahiko Ono as Masaki (constantly wearing a suitably gormless expression), Minora Iizuka as his buddy Kazuo and a truly scary – and chillingly funny – turn from Kitano, BOILING POINT rates as one of the director’s best pictures.

The DVD:

Presented at its correct ratio of 1:85:1 (anamorphically enhanced), Second Sight’s edition of BOILING POINT has been sourced from an NTSC to PAL master. Unfortunately, while the company’s transfer of VIOLENT COP benefited from that film’s clinical visual style, BOILING POINT is shot in a rougher style that does not mesh well with the video conversion. The image is not as sharp as desired, while there is much motion blur with movement. That said it is certainly an improvement over the mediocre Fox Lorber disc that was released in America during the early days of the DVD format. That suffered from being a poor PAL to NTSC conversion resulting in a much softer picture with high contrast (it was also non-anamorphic).

The original Japanese audio track is presented in both Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround. Both are clean and are perfectly acceptable, although the sound mixes do not differ that much from each other since the soundtrack, like Kitano’s imagery, is a minimalist effort.

The English subtitles are easy to read and seem to be a decent translation of the Japanese dialogue.

Unfortunately, of Second Sight’s Takeshi Kitano collection, only the first film VIOLENT COP contains any extras. BOLING POINT has no additional content whatsoever, not even the wonderful Japanese theatrical trailer (which featured peculiar but appropriate title cards and a great piece of music inspired by Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells) that can be found on the Fox Lorber disc as well as the old UK video tapes of VIOLENT COP and SONATINE released by ICA.

While extra content and a sharper image would be desirable, Second Sight’s presentation of BOILING POINT is overall satisfactory. It is one of Kitano’s best pictures and highly recommended.

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