Hong Kong Cinema


  • Made: 2000
  • Format: DVD (Region 2)
  • Release Date: 20/08/01
  • Company: Film Four
  • Length: 108 mins
  • Picture: Fullscreen
  • Language: English
  • Extras: Trailers, Behind the scenes footage
  • Classification: 18


'Beat' Takeshi Kitano


'Beat' Takeshi Kitano, Claude Maki, Omar Epps, James Shigeta

This is a challenging film from 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano, and the first of his works that I have watched. I have to say the film is not the best, but Takeshi was by a mile the most interesting and exciting part about the film and indeed convinced me I need to see more of his films. I can't help but draw comparisons between him and Chow Yun Fat, for anyone who has seen his Hollywood offerings (i.e. Corruptor, Replacement Killers) would have been disappointed with the films but at the same time eager to see more of his work. In fact the same goes for a Jackie, but to a lesser extent, as he is now starting to produce some good work in Hollywood. But the general point is clear, Hollywood tries to repackage Eastern heroes and in doing so, ruins their essence and generates remarkably inferior films to their domestic offerings.

Back to the film, I hear you cry! Well this is Yakuza in LA essentially, and the plot moves between moments of extreme and graphic violence to elements that aim to generate symbolism and reflection but regularly end up being rather disappointing. Takeshi plays Yamamoto, who is driven out of Japan when his boss is killed by rivals. He goes looking for his little brother (Claude Maki) who is just a low down drug dealer and meets Omar Epps (Denny), who is a fellow pusher and is poorly directed towards being the other central character in the film. People may remember Omar Epps from 'In Too Deep' when playing an undercover police informant and the great irony of the film being that he never actually gets too deep at all!

When Yamamoto finds his brother in this lowly position he sets about massacring all other drug rings that stand in his way. The violence is bloody and possibly attempts to be too shocking, which doesn't really draw the viewer in. Unfortunately it lacks the slick charms of John Woo which spell-bind all who see it, and reminds you more of a 'post-modern artiste' trying to generate some shock value to win the next Turner prize. These moments include several fingers being cut off and a self disembowelling (Yakuza honour and all that).

I think the worst part of this film is the fatalistic element of the film, unfortunately although this offered a lot that Hollywood doesn't (or can't), it still has the redemptive and predictable ending. I think it is a mark of poor film when you can work out after half an hour who will die and who will get away (see any Hollywood war movie, or action film).

You get the impression that Yamamoto knows what will happen before it does, such as when he starts 'war' with the Mafia, he knows this will lead to almost everyone being killed, apart from Denny, because Denny is his friend (ahhh).

You get torn between 'respecting' the Yakuza honour and preparedness for death, which is balanced against him essentially leading everyone who has worked with him to their death with little more than a shrug. The reason why Goodfella's is one of the greatest gangster movies ever is because Ray Liotta gets away clean at the end, he had a great time and then didn't get killed or spend his life in jail. Why should every film involving a gangster end up with them suffering a retributive finale? Which in this film strikes much resemblance to the classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Overall I was disappointed with the predictable tone of the film and the directing was lacking in places, but Takeshi stole the film and provided a great advert for himself

On the plus side, the transfer and sound on the DVD is good and it is an interesting and stimulating, if violent, film