Plot: Azuma (Takeshi Kitano) is a hard edged police detective who gets incredible results, but his methods are problematic, to say the least. He operates under his own code of ethics and as that code shifts based on his current needs, no one knows what he is truly capable of. Although his arrests are numerous and he has cracked countless cases, he finds himself under intense pressure from a new superior officer. This new supervisor isn’t as enamored with Azuma’s tactics and while everyone seems to look the other way, he doesn’t plan to follow suit. When a fellow officer and close friend is killed, Azuma snaps into action and uses his connections in the shadier business sectors to hunt down answers, at any cost. He learns that corruption within the police could have led to his friend’s death, so he begins a march of destruction and is determined to deliver hard justice to those responsible. But while he is fearless and willing to cross any line, can even Azuma stand up to corrupt officers and the yakuza?
Entertainment Value: A brutal, relentless crime thriller in the vein of Dirty Harry, Violent Cop is a wild ride and the movie that helped Takeshi Kitano change his image and become a dark, violent screen presence. The narrative is not all that original, but it sets up what we want to see, Kitano unleashed in merciless fashion and the movie never feels like a rehash in the least. The tone is darkly comic, so even the more violent and brutal moments have that gallows humor, though of course, that approach will not resonate with all audiences. Kitano’s Azuma is a force of nature that rarely eases up even for a moment, so his performance drives the movie and there is terrific character work for him to draw upon. In other words, this isn’t just about violence for violence’s sake, there is some substance involved in Violent Cop. The pace is good and never feels slow, thanks in part to frequent, often sudden bursts and action of violence. These scenes are well crafted and effective, whether in small scale instances or more wide open style set pieces. This is the kind of movie that grabs your attention from the jump and never relents, so Violent Cop gets a high recommendation.
There is a lot to praise about Violent Cop, but the lead performance from Takeshi Kitano is easily the main reason to visit this crime thriller. I’ve seen some great renegade cop leads before, but Kitano is head and shoulders above most and Azuma belongs next to Dirty Harry in the rogue cop Hall of Fame, without question. Kitano doesn’t shout and go over the top in his performance, but plays Azuma with a cool, even unsettling persona that makes him a much scarier presence. The ice water in the veins approach yields some genuine tension often, as it makes Azuma so unpredictable, as he is hard to read even in moments of chaos. The scene where he just slaps the life out of a suspect is so intense, as it is both brutal and absurd, but suited to Azuma’s persona. As I watched his performance here, it is hard to believe Kitano worried that he wouldn’t be taken seriously, but he transitioned from humor to drama with ease. The cast also includes Makoto Ashikawa, Maiko Kawakami, and Shiro Shano.
The Disc: Film Movement brings Violent Cop to Blu-ray in a remarkable presentation, one that looks quite clean and shows impressive depth. Most scenes show a good amount of fine detail and while the visuals might not leap off the screen like in some movies, this is a much improved treatment in all aspects. No concerns over colors, which look natural here and contrast is even, if a touch dark in some brief moments. In short, fans should be more than satisfied with this release. The extras include a twenty minute featurette on Kitano’s shift to more serious roles and two of the film’s trailers.