There is no doubt in my mind that Takeshi Kitano is one of the greatest cinematic geniuses alive, and his nihilistic 1989 directorial debut is a fantastic proof for that. "Sono otoko, kyôbô ni tsuki" aka. "Violent Cop" is one of the rawest, most uncompromising cop films ever made, and, at the same time, arguably one of the most promising debut films ever delivered. Due to its 'unorthodox cop' premise, the film is often compared to films like the "Dirty Harry" series or "Bad Lieutennant". The stone-faced and irascible copper Azuma (brilliant performance by director Kitano, under his acting name 'Beat Takeshi'), is ten times dirtier than Harry ever was and incomparably more ruthless than the Baddest New York Lieutennant. Azuma could even give the ultra-unorthodox coppers in 70s Italian Poliziotteschi flicks a lesson in police violence. At least most violent cops in 70s exploitation cinema did what they did to protect society from scumbags, whilst Azuma does it out of anger, and he does not even bother asking questions before beating confessions out of criminals. Honestly, "Violent Cop" beats everything in the copper-flick field in its incredibly nihilistic premise, and yet it finds the time for slower moments, and Kitano's typically absurd and ingeniously black humor.
Detective Azuma (Kitano), and irascible homicide detective hates the criminal as he hates the crime, and he does not attempt to hide this attitude. His unorthodox methods, which include the severe beating of suspects, have caused him trouble with his superiors in the past, but Azuma does not seem to care. When ruthless Yakuza gangsters make things personal, they have to realize that they might have made an enemy whose relentlessness easily equals theirs...
I would love to further discuss the film's ingenious plot, but I do not want to spoil anything, as every true film lover should be able to experience the greatness of "Violent Cop". Unlike Kitano's other films, for which Kitano himself wrote the stories, this film is an adaptation of a novel by Hiashi Nozawa. Kitano's work, however, is ingenious, as screenwriter, director and leading man of this film. There is no other director who is capable of combining brutal nihilistic violence, tragedy and (black) comedy as effectively as Kitano does. Asked about the violence in his films in an interview, Kitano himself has once stated that nobody could possibly want to reproduce the violence seen in his films, simply because it is painful to look at. And it is true, hardly another director makes the pain caused by the violence as obvious as Kitano does. Kitano has a unique stamina when showing violence, which makes the viewer almost feel the pain. I don't want to spoil anything by giving an example - see this film and know what I am talking about. At the same time Kitano always has moments that are absurdly comical. As all Kitano protagonists, Azuma, even though an irascible and violent man, has a very odd sense of humor. His response to a barmaid's question what he does for a living is just one example for that. Also in a typical Kitano-manner, the film takes the time for slower parts in-between, like Azuma crossing a bridge for example.
Kitano is as great as leading man as he is as director here. His stoic performance as Azuma is brilliant. The stone-faced copper always has a poker face, but it is nonetheless obvious that he is boiling in fury - how many other actors could be predestined for a role like this as Kitano is. No one, in my opinion. It is Kitano's performance which carries this film, and yet the other performances are also excellent. Hakuryu is particularly excellent as a sadistic Yakuza hit-man. Maiko Kawakami is also very convincing as Azuma's mentally disturbed sister. The rest of the cast includes several great character actors who have since become regulars in Kitano's films, such as Ittoku Kishihe as a Yakuza boss or Makoto Ashikawa as Azuma's young colleague. Lovers of Italian cult-cinema, by the way will be delighted to see a scene in which Kitano brilliantly pays tribute to Sergio Martino's Giallo "La Coda Dello Scorpione" (1971). "Violent Cop" is greatly shot and accompanied by an insanely brilliant score. Kitano's use of music in his films is another part of his brilliance, and really has to be experienced instead of explained.
All said, "Violent Cop" is a unique cinematic experience that must not be missed. Ultraviolent, nihilistic, sometimes slow in detail and more often fast and incredibly raw, brutal, sometimes tragic and sometimes oddly comical, this is the uncompromising masterpiece that marks the beginning in the cinematic career of one of today's most brilliant filmmakers. And, apart from his unmatched 1997 masterpiece "Hana-Bi" (aka. "Fireworks"), Kitano's debut still ranks among his greatest accomplishments. A true must!