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  Boiling Point Beat It
Year: 1990
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Stars: Takeshi Kitano, Yûrei Yanagi, Yuriko Ishida, Taka Guadalcanal, Minoru Iizuka, Eri Fuse, Makoto Ashikawa, Rasshâ Itamae, Tsumami Edamame, Bannai Matsuo, Rakkyo Ide, Meijin Serizawa, Kengakusha Akiyama, Naoko Shinohara, Etsushi Toyokawa
Genre: Comedy, Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Masaki (Yûrei Yanagi as Masahiko Ono) emerges from the portable toilet after spending a long time in there and goes to join his fellow baseball players. His coach remarks sarcastically on his long absence, but Masaki is a little dim, and has no real agency of his own, so when he is asked to coach the players on one of the bases, he simply stands there like a lemon as they are called out. To make matters worse, when it is his turn to bat, he misses not once, not twice, but all three times - this guy is just useless, and when he goes to work later on, a yakuza member is furious that the young man has failed to wash his car properly on time. But being berated, Masaki suddenly finds his feet...

Boiling Point, or 3-4 x jûgatsu as it was called in the original Japanese, was the second film under the direction of comedian Takeshi Kitano as he too began to find his feet, though creatively in his case rather than violently. His first effort had been the aptly-named Violent Cop, which despite some resistance wound up establishing him as a new voice at the helm of gangster flicks, if a deeply eccentric one, throwing in wacky bits of comedy that you might even have missed were supposed to be funny thanks to the guise of the gangster thriller that the pieces adopted. This was just as funny, perhaps even funnier, but there were aspects here you felt uncomfortable about laughing at.

Jokey sexual violence, for example, was not going to endear Kitano to everyone, but he did include some here, as well as humorous woman-beating which may well give you pause when you're wondering, wait, are these still the jokes? He did not show up until precisely the halfway mark, and he was responsible, in character, for much of the dubious business as he played an immoral yakuza who naturally, is a maverick and marching to the beat of his own drum, handy as "Beat" was his nickname (no, he doesn't produce an actual drum to march to, but you would not put it past him). Yet there was a sense that Takeshi, and the gangsters like him, were the real butt of the jokes.

Boiling Point, not to be confused with the Wesley Snipes versus Dennis Hopper Hollywood crime thriller of three years later, was considered a transitional work by many, and though it received good reviews in the West, that was before Sonatine was released, which was regarded as his best movie by many. This leaves it as a stepping stone between his directorial debut and the one that was garlanded with praise and as such, often neglected, though there is some quality here, and it was plainly the work of someone who had a very clear vision of what he was attempting to achieve, a mixture of drama and comedy, with action sequences so abrupt and off the wall they hardly qualified as such.

The theme was of our hapless hero finding confidence in life, smartening himself up to get through the slings and arrows of whatever came his way, and though it did end on a note that any schoolboy knows is severely discouraged in learning how to end a story, it did at least offer a note of explanation for how outlandish this became at frequent instances. Masaki gets a motorbike, falls in love with a beautiful girl who is genuinely interested in him, becomes adept at the baseball matches (if a shade overeager in the execution), and makes life difficult for the yakuza who have been threatening his friends. The fact this was a comedy came with its own issues: try to describe a Takeshi Kitano joke and you would likely be offered a blank expression as a response, but actually watch what he did with his humour and you may well burst out laughing, it really was something you had to experience in order to "get" what he was about. For that reason, Boiling Point would always be a lesser Kitano, but by others' standards it was an achievement.

[This is included on The Takeshi Kitano Collection from the BFI, a three Blu-ray set packed with extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Takeshi Kitano  (1947 - )

Japanese director/actor/writer/comedian and one of the best-known entertainers in Japan. Entered showbiz in the early 70s as a stand-up comic, and began acting in the early 80s, his most famous early role being in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. As a director, Kitano's debut was 1989's Violent Cop, a gritty police thriller. The success of this led Kitano to explore similar cop/gangster territory in films like Boiling Point, Sonatine and the award-winning Hana-bi, all of which combined graphic violence, intense drama and off-beat comedy, while Kitano's more light-hearted side was revealed in the likes of the sex comedy Getting Any?, the autobiographical Kids Return and the whimsical Kikujiro.

If 2000's US-set Brother was a disappointment and Dolls visually stunning but hard-going, 2003's Zatoichi was a fast-moving, blood-splattered samurai romp. After a run of personal, financially unsuccessful art films, he returned to familiar territory with the Outrage series. As an actor, Kitano (credited as 'Beat' Takeshi, his comedy-persona) has appeared in films including Battle Royale, Gonin, Johnny Mnemonic, Gohatto and Takashi Miike's Izô.

 
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