Written by: Christopher O’Neill on June 16th, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1989
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Hisashi Norzawa
Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Hakuryu, Maiko Kawakami, Shiro Sano, Makoto Ashikawa
DVD released: May 4th, 2009
Approximate running time: 103 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
An instant cult hit when it appeared in Arthouse cinemas worldwide, what makes Takeshi Kitano’s directorial debut so disarming, and in turn fascinating, is that, based on the above description, VIOLENT COP reads like a run-of-the-mill tough cop crime thriller yet it is so much more. Originally slated to be a spoof of such films helmed by Kinji Fukasaku (TRIPLE CROSS), when star Kitano also took over the directorial reins he heavily rewrote the screenplay removing all traces of traditional comedy and replacing it with a heightened brutality, an air of existentialism and his own peculiar brand of slow-burning humor. By keeping the narrative simple and straightforward, just about every overly familiar cliche of the genre is indulged – rookie sidekick, personal vendetta, taking the law into one’s own hands when no other option is possible – which allows Kitano room to subvert expectations by lacing every scene with off-kilter details and character quirks. The visuals are clean and clinical, the protagonists express muted emotions, and the acts of violence are abrupt, blunt and genuinely shocking. All of these elements have since proven to be Kitano’s distinctive trademarks, and make VIOLENT COP one of the most significant and important feature debuts of the late eighties.
Second Sight presents VIOLENT COP anamorphically-enhanced at its correct 1:85:1 ratio. The transfer seems to have been sourced from an NTSC to PAL master which results in slightly dull colors and an occasional smearing effect when there is excessive movement on screen, but it must be said that this presentation is possibly the best that the film has so far looked on DVD, and it certainly a huge improvement over the American Fox Lorber disc released in 1999. A tad – and I mean a tad – soft perhaps, but the image is overall crisp and as sharp as any NTSC to PAL conversion is ever going to look.
The original Japanese audio track is presented in both Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround. Both are clean and free of hiss, although as far as I could tell there was little difference between the two sound mixes.
The English subtitles are easy to read and almost error free, with only one instance of incorrect spelling. Apart from this hiccup, the titles are perfectly acceptable.
Extras include an audio commentary by Chris D, author of Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film. Generally informative, this audio track does fill in some details regarding the making of VIOLENT COP and how the film fits into Kitano’s overall body of work. Most significantly, also on the disc is Jean-Pierre Limosin’s wonderful documentary TAKESHI KITANO: THE UNPREDICTABLE. Part of the Cinéma, de notre temps series, which also included Rafi Pitts’s fascinating portrait ABEL FERRARA: NOT GUILTY, it was produced in 1999 and runs 68 minutes. Presented in French and Japanese with English subtitles, this is an in-depth look into the career and working methods of Kitano (who is interviewed at length) and is valuable viewing to anyone interested in the director. It is a pity that the original Japanese theatrical trailer, found on the old UK video tapes of BOILING POINT and SONATINE released by ICA, could not be included, but the other extras more than make up for its exclusion.
VIOLENT COP is an exceptional film given a worthy DVD release by Second Sight.