Violent Cop (Sono otoko, kyobo ni tsuki) (1989)

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Released 16-Mar-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Promotional Trailers
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 98:21
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Takeshi Kitano
Studio
Distributor
Shochiku
Madman Entertainment
Starring Takeshi Kitano
Maiko Kawakami
Makoto Ashikawa
Shirô Sano
Shigeru Hiraizumi
Mikiko Otonashi
Hakuryu
Ittoku Kishibe
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music Daisaku Kume


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, frequently
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Writer, actor and director Takeshi Kitano is the genuine article, a true genius of Japanese and World cinema. Violent Cop is his stunning directorial debut; a moving, beautiful, violent film of immense power. The Japanese title of Violent Cop is Sono otoko, kyobo ni tsuki which is roughly "Beware, this man is wild". To reinforce this warning the Japanese title, in white but underlined in red over a black background, stays on the screen for a full 8 seconds before dissolving into the first shot of the film, a derelict being assaulted by a group of teenage boys. Kitano is Azuma, the "wild man" of the title. Azuma is a Police Officer: a loner who serves out justice his own way with his fists. He is an honest Cop always short of money and looks after his mentally impaired sister Akira (Maiko Kawakami). Loyal to his fellow Policemen, things start to unravel for Azuma and his partner Kikuchi (Makoto Ashikawa) when in the course of an investigation into a drug related killing he discovers that it is the police, especially his friend Iwaki (Shigeru Hiraizumi) in the Vice Squad, who are the main drug suppliers for Yakuza boss Nito (Ittoku Kishibe) and his murderous associate Kiyohiro (Hakuryu). As the bodies pile up, Azuma is dismissed from the Police after his vicious beating of Kiyohiro; and then it all gets very, very personal.

     Violent Cop is, well, violent. Yet in Kitano's world the violence is neither stylish nor graceful, as per a Peckinpah or John Woo, and although Violent Cop does feature one sequence filmed in slow motion this is not something Kitano makes a habit of. Instead the violence is brutal, bloody, painful and short. This depiction of violence can be contrasted with Kitano's frequent use of long static takes, such as that of Azuma walking towards the camera across a bridge near the start of the film (5:50 - 6:31). Here Azuma is a man alone, surrounded by a cityscape, going his own way, with only the sparse music score to support the visuals. Indeed, the exact same shot with the same score, but this time with Kikuchi, is used by Kitano to excellent effect to close the film (93:40 - 94:21).

    It is these long takes, juxtaposed by short sharp violence, which gives Kitano's films their poetry, their beauty and their power. For Kitano is almost more a painter than film director and his films are replete with beautiful images and sparse dialogue, the vision carrying the film forward. Shadow, light and darkness are very much a part of Kitano's technique; see for example the frequent use of a strong light source behind the actor (such as 41:03, 44:22, 62:38, 60:23 and 82:32) or the diagonal light/dark across the frame in the climax (89:56, 92:14). Sometimes, but not always, his long takes are supported by the music. Indeed, his films are scored very minimally and Violent Cop sets the template for his later collaborations with Joe Hisaishi that started with A Scene at the Sea (1991). Here Daisaka Kume's jazz oriented music is sparsely used and in fact the first 6 minutes of the film are totally without music. When heard, it is an effective support for the film.

     Violent Cop is a stunning debut from a master filmmaker who would go on to make genuine cinema masterpieces like Sonatine and Hana-bi. Many of his later themes and cinematic techniques received their first trial in Violent Cop. If you are familiar with his later work, get this film. You will not be disappointed.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Violent Cop is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which was the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced. The print is not perfect; there are occasional artefacts (92:51), and aliasing (on blinds 59:33 and steps 53:58) but blacks are solid and shadow detail very good, which is just as well as parts of the film are very, very dark indeed. As well, the use of bright light sources behind the actor is a technique often used by Kitano (see above) and in these frames the camera struggles to focus. Colours are muted and there are varying levels of sharpness. Edge enhancement occurs (17:32 and 85:42) and Gibb effect is evident in the closing titles. However, this sounds worse than it is; parts of the film are sharp and clear and none of the items described are more than fleeting and none are overly distracting nor spoil the enjoyment of the film.

English subtitles are the only option. They are in an easy to read yellow text that seems to follow the action and contains no obvious spelling or grammatical errors.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Violent Cop features a Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. It does what is required for a film with long silences. Directional cues are minor but music and ambient sounds in the surrounds are effective. Sub woofer use is minimal. Dialogue is clear, lip synchronisation fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Theatrical Trailer

The Violent Cop trailer is quite dark: presented in 2.35:1, Dolby Digital 2.0, 2:11 minutes.

Promotional Trailers

Numerous trailers are presented in diverse aspect ratios and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. A number of them are anime and manga titles, including children's titles, which seem unlikely to be attractive to Kitano fans. An annoyance is that you must scroll through the titles individually rather than selecting from one menu. Included: the Eastern Eye Promo Reel, (music only, 2:21 min., features Bichunmoo, The Eye, Avalon, Bangkok Dangerous, Seven Samurai, Infernal Affairs and Princes Blade), Sonatine (0:52 min), Boiling Point (2:08 min), Infernal Affairs (1:46 min), Throne of Blood (3:46 min), Zatoichi: Festival of Fire (2:16 min), Hana-bi (1:56 min), Ong Bak (1:49 min), Mobile Suit Gundam Seed (1:36 min), Samurai Champloo (1:37 min), Heat Guy J (1:36 min), GTO (0:37 min) and DSA (1:32 min).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 DVD release is not 16x9 enhanced, has Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, some Cast & Crew information, Production Notes and Trailers. There is a new (May 2009) release in Region 2. By reports it seems to have very similar video and audio to our version. However it also includes as extras an Audio Commentary (reported as heavy going) plus Takeshi Kitano: The Unpredictable (68:06 minutes), an excellent French interview with the master. Based on this, Region 2 is the winner. However, you can purchase three of Kitano's films (Violent Cop, Boiling Point and Sonatine) in this box set for less than $40 which represents fantastic value for money.

Summary

    Violent Cop is presented with reasonable video and audio (as good as anything else available as far as I can find) and minimal extras, but the film itself is the attraction. Violent Cop is a stunning debut from a master filmmaker who would go on to make genuine cinema masterpieces like Sonatine and Hana-bi. Many of his later themes and cinematic techniques received their first trial in Violent Cop. If you are a fan of Kitano or of Scorsese's gritty films about the American mob, such as Mean Streets or Goodfellas, you owe it to yourself to take a look at the world of the Japanese Yakuza through the eyes of this master filmmaker.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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