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Boiling Point
cast: Masahiko Ono, Makoto Ashikawa, Hitoshi Ozawa, and 'Beat' Takeshi

writer and director: Takeshi Kitano

103 minutes (18) 1990
widescreen ratio 16:9
Tokyo Bullet DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Denise Wayne
I don't watch much Japanese cinema, and have not always enjoyed the so-called 'heroic bloodshed' type of gangster thrillers, so I approached this stylised Yakuza movie with some trepidation - but was pleasantly surprised to find that Boiling Point (not to be confused with the Wesley Snipes and Dennis Hopper vehicle of 1993) really has changed my opinion of what this predominantly male subgenre has to offer.
   Unlike the sheer nastiness of certain Tarantino films, this revenge drama by actor, writer and director Takeshi 'Beat' Kitano leavens its unsubtle, offhanded violence with an amiable, if somewhat peculiar, sense of humour about guns, sex, murder and horror. They say comedy and tragedy are different sides of the same coin, and I have a feeling that Takeshi understands principle very well - far better than many western filmmakers, especially in Hollywood with their irony deficient culture derived from decades of unambiguous TV.
   Masaki (Masahiko Ono, of the Ring films) is the most useless player on a small club baseball team, which regularly lose their games without scoring. His day job as dogsbody at a garage is no more fulfilling - or stimulating - until he offends a bullying Yakuza thug of the second-rate Otomo group. Although former gangster Iguchi (Takahito Iguchi) sticks up for Masaki against the protection racketeers, everyone knows that nothing less than a massacre at the Otomo headquarters will change anything, so Masaki goes out of town to buy a gun...
   There are many silent and static 'waiting' sequences in Boiling Point, but these are rarely passive moments on the emotional plane. Instead, the director imbues the quietest moments of Zen like calm with a seething anxiety. Conversely, when it comes to action scenes, Takeshi Kitano prefers a deliberately muted approach, so even the slow motion slaughter of everyone in a small office has the purposeful tranquillity of lawn mowing. There's evidence, too, of a rather perverted sense of humour, as amongst the social ineptitude, deadpan arrogance, and inexplicable violence, criminal acts such as cutting off a finger, and homosexual rape, and the persistent slapping of a woman, all verge on the brink of slapstick. In the uncanny restaurant scene, Masaki is compelled to drink squid ink, which turns his mouth into a gasping black hole. His companions pose, as if for a group photo, all with similarly 'toothless' smiles in a shot that's both wickedly funny and a premonition of their ultimate fate in the story.
   The final shot (which I won't reveal) is a traditional cliché of the fantasy genre, but here transforms our view of everything that has gone before with a touching poignancy into something more deeply lyrical and utterly without guile.
   The film is presented in widescreen format with Dolby digital 2.0 sound, and digitally re-mastered English subtitles. There's also the option of a full-screen 4:3 version among DVD extras, including original trailer, stills gallery, filmographies of the main cast, 14 chapter stops, plus Tokyo Bullet previews.
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