Violent Cop

violentcopHe’s not a hero. That’s clear from the outset. Violent Cop opens with a group of teens beating a homeless man. They run over his head with bikes. Azuma (“Beat” Takeshi), our Violent Cop, follows one of them home and beats him in return. Clearly, he watched the old man get beat, and did nothing to stop it. “What could I do?” he says to another cop.

And so it goes. Violent Cop has the clichés of the yakuza/cop flick without any of the actual context. We have: the crime boss; the psychotic underling; the rookie cop; the hero turning in his badge; the hero’s vulnerable sister; and the corrupt cop. All of the genre’s overdone touchstones are here, but they’re drained of impact, or they touch us in the wrong way. We don’t care that Azuma turns in his badge. Planting evidence, and beating people up without a cause, he’s barely a cop at any point in the film.

The plot is fairly incomprehensible (due to a lack of exposition), but it doesn’t matter. Azuma goes after a drug ring, and eventually he catches up with it. Complications and violence ensue, all of it shot dead straight, with neither glee nor repulsion. In Violent Cop, things just happen, and nobody much cares.

Death Wish made you identify with its vigilante. Violent Cop does not. Takeshi keeps you so distanced from the characters, makes their action so repulsive, that no identification is possible. It hardly seems the point. He is, I think, commenting on the ways men communicate with each other. All things are obligatory, guided by rote mechanical action instead of passion. Azuma and the psychotic underling square off, not because they want to, but because they have to. Whether they do it cheerfully or with resignation, everyone falls into his role. The question of free will is moot, because it doesn’t matter what you do anyway.

Though Violent Cop is a fully realized vision of the cycles of corruption and violence, it has no line to reality. It’s a negative fantasy. The character’s motives and actions exist well enough within the framework of the story, but they don’t translate to the real world – morally, allegorically, etc. It just seems downbeat and angry without a greater context to give it external meaning. This begs the question: Except for the visceral fun of Takeshi’s acting, why see this movie? It isn’t a bad film, but it does leave you with negative emotions that have no particular insight.

Violent Cop can’t compare to a novel by Jim Thompson. Thompson painted in the darkest shades. He shared the pointless misanthropy, but the darkness was shown as aberrant, an ugliness to be compared with the difficult-(and for some impossible)-to-attain light. Violent Cop is all murk and no choices – no morality. And so, for me, it has no real interest.

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