The EVILs of Slasherman! “Random Acts of Violence” reviewed! (Acorn Media / Blu-ray)

Comic book writer Todd has hit a writer’s block wall on the last issue of his one-shot, popular and extremely graphic series Slasherman based off the gruesome string of I-90 murders of the late 1980s where the killer murdered and mutilated his victims without ever being caught.  Looking for inspiration to conclude his life’s work, Todd, his girlfriend, investing publisher, and assistant head out on a road trip from Toronto to America, specially through the small town of McBain where the murders took place, but when recent mutilated bodies resemble the grisly deaths inside the colorful pages of his comics, the semi-fictional Slasherman story becomes full blown reality that places him and his friends in a maniacal killer’s path whose flipping through the pages of Todd’s murder-glorifying comic for inspiration of his own. 

Like many opinionated reviews before mine, I never imagined Jay Baruchel directing a horror movie.  The long time comedic actor with solid relationships working with other high profile comedians, such as Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride in some of the best notable comedies on the side of the century, has stepped into the shadows and professing his admiration for the genre we all love – horror. Baruchel cowrites and directs his first horror film, the big screen adaptation of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s “Random Acts of Violence” graphic novel. Fellow collaborator on the “Goon” movies, Jesse Chabot, branches out with Baruchel on the script and the two Canadian filmmakers yield an intense meta-gore picture focusing toward themes of lopsided public perspective and the glorifying of violence on other less physical mediums. Published in 2010 under Image Comics, the Gray and Palmiotti publication supplied a wealth of visceral material that unfolded faithfully in Baruchel’s Shudder distributed film as a stylish comicbook-esque narrative under the Toronto based Elevation Pictures, Wicked Big, and Manis Film production in association with Kickstart Comics and JoBro Productions. Palmiotti and Gray also serve as executive producers.



Struggling in the search for his perfect ending to Slasherman, Todd immerses himself in a cerebral fixation that envelops him more so then he would like to think.  Todd’s played by social activist and “Cabin in the Woods” actor Jesse Williams whose character is thrust into essentially making a choice, entertain his profession that earns blood money off the backbones of the I-90’s victims or subside his eagerness to finish his graphic novel and be team victim alongside his girlfriend Kathy (“The Faculty” and 2006’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning’s” Jordana Brewster) researching a novel that gives the slain victims a voice over their killer.  Brewster hasn’t changed one bit in a role that resembles a mature version of her “The Faculty” Delilah Profitt character complete with glasses and a thirst for reporting.  As a couple, Williams and Brewster hit little on their unconditional love  that’s apparent in the film’s final scenes.  Aside from their opening segment in their Toronto flat, their road trip is filled with Kathy berates Todd at times or Todd never seeming interested in Kathy or her work that’s seen counteractive to his own.  Affection is thin between them and I’m wondering if that’s more of the script writing than a flaw on Williams and Brewster who are credibility solid in their roles.  Same can be said about Jay Baruchel’s Ezra, the indie publisher sponsoring Slasherman, as the writer-director plays little to a publisher’s position of pushing the sales and marketing envolope and appears more to just be a tagalong friend with moments of quietly hawking.  Without much competition surrounding him, Slasherman is the most interesting character of the bunch from prolific stuntman, Simon Northwood.  With a 1000 yard stare that’s more menacing inducing than stemmed by trauma, Northwood brings the graphic novel character to all his glory as an aspiring artist in a contemporary parallelism to Todd who both see one another as their muse.  Northwood’s Slasherman is silently frightening, even more scary when he has to psych himself up to kill, and brings the physical stature of an unstoppable slasher genre maniac.  No one is safe from the merciless Slasherman, including those rounding out the cast in Niamh Wilson (“Saw III”), Clark Backo, Eric Osborne (“Pyewacket”), Nia Roam (“Polar”), Aviva Mongillo, and Isaiah Rockcliffe.   

The hyper violence lands more with a firm hand making good on film title.  Baruchel doesn’t hold much, if anything, back when rectifying violence as the monolithic theme while hitting a few thought-provoking notes involving the public’s perspective on the infamous legacy of serial killers and the tragic, forgotten memory toward their victims.  Somewhere in the gutting-clutter is a message of meta-existentialism tearing between that thin line of a person’s cause and effect actions.  Without the I-90 killer, Todd would not been stimulated into creating the deeply grim anti-heroic antics of Slasherman and, visa-versa, Slasherman would not have returned, coming out from retirement, if it wasn’t for Todd’s life’s work and lack of series conclusion for the Slasherman character speaking to Slasherman’s sanguinary artistic side.  One aspect stiffly hard to place your finger on is Todd’s connection with the town of McBain.  Other than a brief voice over exchange with Ezra, who mentions Mcbain is Todd’s hometown area, not much more of that pivotal connective tissue seizes grounding Todd, but the graphic novelist experiences a multitude of images streaming through his far off gazes, thoughts, and dreams. A boy, the boy’s mother who we know to be one of Slasherman’s victims because of Kathy’s research book, and the collateral damage of some great magnitude of violence surrounding them carry little weight to Todd’s psyche when struggling to piece his visions and these people’s bloodshed moment together and one reasonable theory that might explain that disconnect on our part is partially racially motivated, a detail indicative of gross assumption but a detail that can easily deceive you if you’re not knowledgeable enough about the cast you’re watching. My two cents is not randomized at all on Jay Baruchel’s “Random Acts of Violence” as it’s a brazenly deep and vicious first attempt horror in his own manic words from the glossy, leafy pages of the same titular graphic novel to the tellies of terror now on home media release.

Classified 18 for strong bloody violence and gore, “Random Acts of Violence” hits Blu-ray media shelves courtesy of Acorn Media International. The region 2, PAL encoded single disc BD25 has a runtime of 81 minutes and is presented in a slightly cropped widescreen 2.38:1 aspect ratio. A diverse hue palette of neon extricates Baruchel’s off-brand, real-time comic layout, creating a gritty, yet vibrant world all his own in a near window-blinds noir fashion. The tinkering of tints reaches almost Italian giallo levels without playing much with lighting and fog, relying heavily on the different neon vibrancy as if a colorist was right there pigmenting each scene as it played out. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound discerns very well across the board with robust dialogue that even with Williams’ slight lisp, every single word can be hung on. I didn’t think there was a ton of opportunity for depth and range as much of the action is in staged front side of the camera, but for what little there was, those areas saw solid, identifiable outputs. Bonus features include a zoom interview with a very animated Jay Baruchel providing the in depth inner works of the conception of his film while sporting a retro Montreal Expos ballcap, a showreel-esque promo entitled More Than Just A Scary Movie offers brief opinions, thoughts, and highlights on the film edited from longer, on-set interviews, and a look inside how to make an action scene. An on-your-toes, gut-wrenching slasher with a juicy slice of meta proves Jay Baruchel can wander into any genre and come out on top, but “Random Acts of Violence” has kinks to straighten out in this young director’s sophomore feature.

For One Exhausted Truck Driver, EVIL is on the Move! “Goodbye Honey” reviewed! (Freestyle Digital Media / Digital Screener)

Dawn has been driving for over 30 hours straight schlepping a customer’s belongings from point A to point B. Unable to keep her eyes from closing, she pulls over and parks in an empty lot of a state park. Before Dawn could close her eyes, a mysterious and frightened woman approaches her asking for help, informing Dawn that she has been held captive for months. Treating with suspicious eyes, not fully trusting this young woman’s thinly laid out accusation, the exhausted truck driver is eager to protect her truck from would-be thieves and vandals, but decides to assist though her phone is broken and her truck keys are lost, leaving the two women stranded in the middle of nowhere with a radical abduction story and the captor is not too far behind. What seemed to be a quiet night of deserved rest and relaxation for a truck driver who just drove straight-through without much as taking a break is about to unfold an eye-opening, harrowing ordeal that puts the two women in for the long haul.

Would you trust a harried and jonesing-looking straight knocking on your day cab door of your straight moving truck in the very early AM hours of the night? This iffy scenario plunges audience into that exact pressure point of Max Strand’s feature film directorial debut of “Goodbye Honey.” The 2020 abduction-thriller is also written by Strand and co-written alongside Todd Rawiszer, collaborating for a second time since 2011 for their cannibalistic-comedy, the family kills together, eats people together, “The Labbinacs.” Generally most abduction thrillers takes the viewpoint of the captive, but for “Goodbye Honey,” Strand and Rawiszer take the perspective of an outsider with unlucky happenstance and makes persevere over their own hang-ups in the dealt lousy hand called life. “Goodbye Honey” is produced by Joshua Michaels from the Examined Dots Pictures, a subsidiary of the video media company, Examined Dots Media, and is the first feature length film production from the company.



The point of view from the trucker sparks a clean slate inception of events as Dawn is oblivious to the entire occurrence that has scared and scarred this young woman whose animal instincts have kicked in and is working against her advantage with Dawn as desperate spurs her to act instead of thinking logically about what to do.  Pamela Jayne Morgan (“The Manor”) headlines “Goodbye Honey” in her first breakout role of 2020 stepping into not only an impromptu lifesaving moment but also into the steel toed shoes of a trucker’s life behind the wheel that features sleeping in her cab, eating lunch in her cab, and being driven into the ground by a demanding, world’s most dangerous, profession.  The only uncouth trucker habit Morgan does not do in her cab is urinate into a bottle.  Oh wait, she does bottle potty!  However, the circumstances surrounding that moment is not because of her profession and only adds to the many layers, including her tragic background and lost ambitions, that makes Dawn a complex character working the mental gears to do what she can to survive and save a life in terror’s grip.  And just like Dawn, we’re weary to believe the fantastic accusations coming out of Juliette Alice Gobin’s lip-quivering mouth who sizes up to the very still with fright the shaken and traumatized abductee in Phoebe as she narrowly escapes her captor, played by Paul C. Kelly (“Devils Prey”).  Gobin debuts her talents in horror with flawless strokes that paints Phoebe more of a misunderstood threat than a distressed victim of kidnapping.  Morgan and Gobin’s hot and cold dynamic perfectly rouses doubts as nothing, at first, is entirely clear.  “Goodbye Honey” has an indie size cast, but the performances are robust with layered intensity from the principle roles to the momentary characters played by Peyton Michelle Edwards, Rafe Soule, Jake Laurence, and Keara Benton.

There’s always been this uniquely bizarre fascination of which story angle an abduction thriller should play from and in “Goodbye Honey’s”, the story doesn’t follow a linear narrative of the abductee but backtracks with anecdotal flashbacks as Phoebe divulges the events leading to her snatching and how’s she’s been isolated in a small room for months to her only hope and savior, an emotionally downtrodden and physically fatigued Dawn.  While not entirely new, as we’ve seen a structure similar in John Oak Dalton’s “The Girl in the Crawl Space” that relives the victim’s held captive experience through mental flashbacks and therapy sessions, “Goodbye Honey,” bills far superior dread unlike the 2018 film, which suffers from monotonous exposition and topical offshoots.  Strand plops us in the unravelling thicket of action with gripping what-ifs potentially lurking in the midnight shadows surrounding Dawn’s painted white beacon of hope on wheels.  Character curveballs also hit empathetically hard with twist and turns coming out of the ears of all the narrative pawns and not just confined to the black and white abduction that brings them together. As much as Phoebe needs Dawn’s help to escape the clutches of her captor, Dawn also needed Phoebe’s accidental life purpose healing that fills the void in Dawn’s life left by the passing of her husband and reaffirms her passion for helping people no matter her personal circumstances.  Oddly enough, I found Kelly’s captor lacked substance to the story other than the characteristic ploy of revenge that agitates the action as his endgame for Phoebe isn’t exactly clear other than spouting, “she needs to pay.”  The serendipitous connection between Dawn, Phoebe, and the abductor has designer destiny stitched into the natural fabric of life in an almost comical happenstance of events, but makes for good entertainment nonetheless knowing that there is a circle of connectivity, a sense of purpose, and a reason to fight back in “Goodbye Honey’s” pressure cooking recipe.   

On May 11th, “Goodbye Honey” was released on digital HD and on cable VOD in North America from Freestyle Digital HD after a successful stint of festival wins including Best Thriller Feature, Best Actress (Pamela Jane Morgan), and Best Supporting Actor (Rafe Soule) at the Garden State Film Festival, Best Lead Performance (Juliette Alice Gobin) at the Nightmares Film Festival, and Best Actress (Morgan) at NOLA Horror Film Festival. Todd Rawiszer didn’t just co-write the film he also shot the film, his first feature film credit at a cinematographer. Inside 96 minutes and with a narrative taking place over a single night, Rawiszer casts a variety of hard lit shadows with glimmers of intermittent portable lights and neon reds kept tight with medium to closeup shots and rarely venturing out beyond that range with clarity as much of the wide shots or long shots are obscured, in a haze, or blurry to the eye as Rawiszer never wants you to know what’s exactly out that far. A pair neat editing montages by Jay Yachetta, with the meal plate and door slamming alongside Phoebe going mad with stir crazy is some of the best work I’ve seen a long time that can trigger an epileptic episode and still be insanely cool in the cruelty. Top those montages with an aggressive sound design and you’re head will surely pop off with unsettling jubilation. No bonus scenes during or after the credits are included. Regardless of budget or the stigma of low budget pictures, nothing but good vibes and good things to say generally about Max Strand’s “Goodbye Honey,” a startling trembler of persistence to outlive a night of terror that stars two stellar leading ladies at the heart of the film’s success.

Rent or Own GoodBye Honey on Amazon Prime!

This Dinner Party Dishes the EVIL! “Happy Times” reviewed! (Artsploitation Films / Digital Screener)

A small, but affluent, Los Angeles Jewish community dine together at a Hollywood mansion in celebration of the Shabbat.  Mixed feelings about each other compounded with mixed drinks stir the emotions of heated topics, including business ventures, religious attitudes, social statuses, marital qualms, and hidden desires.  Lines are being drawn and sides are being taken when one thing leads to another and undisclosed secrets become evident in a clash of suburban violence that pits friend versus friend, colleague versus colleague, and husband versus wife to the death. 

Director Michael Mayer reminds us that you should never mix business with pleasure with a keep your friends close, but your enemies closer black comedy entitled “Happy Times.”  The brawl of survival centered around Israel immigrants living in the U.S. is the second written and directed film from Mayer, following polar oppositely against another Israel themed, 2012 picture, “Out in the Dark,” a gay drama in the backdrop of the two rival and patriarchal sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The only conflict in this 2019 thriller-com is of the gravely plentiful and concentrated kind inside a L.A. mansion turned battle arena that sees about as much confrontation as the war-torn Gaza strip.  Co-written with Guy Ayal, “Happy Times” is a collaboration produced by Erri De Luca and Paola Porrini Bisson of OH!PEN and, the Israeli born, Gabrielle and Tomer Almagor’s Urban Tales Productions in association with Michael Mayer’s own company, M7200 Productions.

The Israel-nationality cast can be an immersive experience and a sign of good faith casting from the filmmakers as well as a show of open diversity from the production studios that casting Hebrew speaking, Israel background actors implies a serious interest and respect embroidered into the project. Mayer, born in Haifa, Israel himself, is a breath of a fresh air of non-appropriation in a time where whitewashing can still be prevalent in the movie industry. Israel born actresses Shani Atias, Liraz Chamami, and Iris Bahr command the screen not only as Israeli women in lead roles, but as different personas that interact and keep lively the one night, single dinner party narrative. Chamani especially dazzles in the details as the dinner hosting socialite wife and mother, Sigal, who exacts an assertive Jewish woman with a cooped up attitude and a knack for handling her own while also worried about her social status, an extravagant exhibition of a screen trope that you might experience on shows like “The Marvelous Ms. Maisel” or movies like “The Slums of Beverly Hills,” enacted on point when she’s handing a frightened dinner guest, outside their Jewish circle and fleeing from the scene, tin foil wrapped leftovers with a wide menacingly unsure smile, while holding a medieval crossbow to go frag another party guest, in the plain view driveway. The wives’ counterparts are equally as Jewish and equally as prominent in the fold of the affair with Ido Mor as a unscrupulous businessman co-hosting the dinner, Guy Adler as a construction manager with money problems, and Alon Pdut as an unhappily married Ph.D engineer bothered by his fellow dinner guests’ lack of education and tact. In all, most of the characters are undilutedly snobbish with the exception of Sigal’s struggling actor cousin, Michael, played by Michael Aloni, whose magnified Hollywood liberalism deconstructs the Hebrew bible as racist and inaccurate among other colorful adjectives and becomes the catalyst that begins all hell breaking loose. Stéfi Celma, Mike Burstyn, Daniel Lavid, and Sophie Santi become the filament around the principle leads that strengthen the kill or be killed melee in “Happy Times.”

As if dinner parties weren’t already stressful enough, having to make trivial small talk, possibly acquaint or re-acquaint with unaccustomed faces, or pretend to enjoy the slop being served as food, “Happy Times” turns the internally exasperating dinner party debacle on its head with guests and hosts who are just too terribly comfortable with each other as volatile personalities explode like little active volcanos plumed to reach every corner of the house in a deadly playground for unstable, on-edge adults spewing their strident emotions and Mayer is able to maintain a layered pace with a narrative that’s snowballing quickly.  Where “Happy Times” struggles is the redline occurrences that trigger things to go very badly.  Though hardly trivial episodes between the guests, involving innocent infidelity affections or a slight practical joke stretched beyond devastating consequences, the harried moments afterwards diverge into a blown out result while more nefarious consequential revelations are held back, in after the fact chaos, and these differently graded spurs seem unbalanced, if not flip-flopped, in the story.  The characters themselves adequately course into being delightfully insane and as about as relatable as the internal frustration against our friendly-façade enemies, but there’s a part of me that personally wanted more development.  Military vet Avner, for example, exhibits symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as the horror sounds of war play in his head when under stress.  As he stares into oblivion when the rage fills into his face, especially by a nagging, browbeating wife who doesn’t seem to be aware of his condition, the subconscious killing-machine overcomes the mild-manner tech engineer.  There’s also Yossi’s opaque tax evasion scheme, Michael’s thespian struggles, and Mati, the late arriving Rabbi, who pockets money on the side from Yossi and Sigal that factor into an erratic equation that’s a mind field surprise every step of the way.

“Happy Times” relishes in unpredictable violence as a round table of feast or famine hatred in this dog-eat-dog thriller coming to you from the Philadelphia based distributor, Artsploitation Films. Slated for a February 9th, 2021 release, the unrated film will be presented in a widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, in a gorgeously rich color of a modest, natural color scheme. Kazakhstani cinematographer, Ziv Berkovich, distills a solid, yet uninspiring, photography of mostly still cam mixed with subtle steady cam, rooting firmly to particular rooms without capturing the flow of a big mansion, reducing much of the in clover luxuries of the hosts. The Hebrew, English and some Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital mix offers well balanced layers of audio tracks with dialogue clarity and establishing good range with depth not really set up because of the close up or medium shot frames. Guy Aya;’s score offers a good blend of a violin-screeching from a murder mystery dinner theater with the inklings of traditional Israel folk sprinkled in to create an anxiety riddled brew of trouble. There were no bonus material included with the digital screener nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. The best of times and the worst of times doesn’t compare to the bloodletting of “Happy Times” in a wildly amusing dark comedy with every impulsive-driven and tension-wrought scene chockfull with bated breath.

Pre-order “Happy Times” on DVD or Blu-ray at Amazom.com (Click the poster)

Evil’s Ultimate Climax. “Gorgasm” review!


A low on the totem poll detective receives the chance to get out from behind a paperwork overloaded desk to investigate the gruesome death of a seemingly BDS&M gone array. The case lures the investigator through the muck of the sleazy and sexy underground to where an independent zine lists GORGASM as the ultimate climax. With every lead, GORGASM connects them all and there’s one person, one suspect, on his radar and her name is Tara, the face of GORGASM. Tara’s a psychopathic call girl, aiming to dish out a finitely pleasurable zenith to those who want more than just sex, and the unlikely hero detective embraces the case personally to put a stop to Tara’s gruesome delusional calling before he’s sucked into an inescapable world blended with lustful carnalities and death.

“Gorgasm.” By title alone, “Gorgasm” has already peaked interest and paved for a path of optimism and delight despite the inkling in the back of the mind about the film’s low-budget shlock. In any case, the title comes from the imagination of creator, writer, director of “Dead Silence,” a one Mr. Hugh Gallagher, and is his 1990 sophomore feature that showcase plenty of violence in an ostentatious psychosexual thriller. Gallagher, perhaps, isn’t the first to delve into porn’s mucky and sleazy underworld that’s universally stigma in many cultures, but, and again perhaps, is the first to explore the many facets that porn has to offer and highlights the habituating circumstances porn has to morph into to keep up with customer demand, whether it involves whips, clips, and chains or to be more specific in the realm of fetishes.

Gallagher didn’t manage to make any old, run-of-the-mill low-budget venture, but managed to do so with a professional lead in Rik Billock. The name might sound familiar to horror fanatics. Billock has been a stock regular in George Romero films: “Dawn of the Dead,” “Knightriders,” “Monkey Shines,” and in “The Dark Half.” He also had a small, yet door knocking down roll in Tom Savini’s “Night of the Living Dead.” Billock’s a bright star with an organic singularity amongst a mechanical lineup, popping out like a child’s pop-out book that solidifies his presence. Even his co-lead, introducing an actress only known as Gabriela, a former wrestling-affiliated performer in her first feature film. Gabriela is stunning, beautiful, and well-endowed, perfectly casted to be the personal-placing killer call girl with dark features and though her method is a bit monotoned and monologuing, Gabriela’s looks really do standalone. “Gorgasm” also co-stars Paula Hendricks who puts a real damper into the ebb and flow of being a strict and condescending sergeant to Billock’s character, but the silver lining is that this Hendrick’s sole credited role. Rounding out the cast includes Paula Gallagher, Kevin Patterson, Denis Hellrung, and co-producer Flint Mitchell in a show-stopping slimeball performance as a sleazy magazine owner.

With an extreme and inviting title like “Gorgasm,” there comes a usual, if not blatantly given, perception that blood will flow and guts will be strung and plastered on forefront of the featured scenes, but to an extent, the gore and the blood splatter were surprisingly granular results and doesn’t ultimately champion an autassassinophilia effect. However, don’t be scornfully turned away from Gallagher’s film if “Gorgasm” isn’t locked and loaded with blood drenching entrails and other body fluids and fleshy tissue. Gallagher executes tasty scenes of violence and mortality on a budget with examples being a garage door decapitation and a kill shot to the vagina. There’s also a weed whacker chewing through a pervs face. “Gorgasm,” perhaps, does find space in the gore and shock subgenre pie, even if only a sliver of a piece.

MVDVisual and SRS Cinema release the Draculina Productions film, “Gorgasm,” onto DVD home video and present the film on the original SOV, full-frame format that’s pleasantly held up over the last 28 years. Aliasing is quite common on shot-on-vide, even on Super VHS that director Hugh Gallagher shoots the film, and the coloring has a slight washed look, but considering the VHS monstrosities out in the world today on DVD, “Gorgasm” has no ill-will toward this release. The uncompressed PCM 1.0 mono track has limited depth and range with a consistent static hiss throughout, but generally adequate with clear dialogue upfront. The “bloody” bonus features include a commentary with Hugh Gallagher, behind-the-scenes footage, and trailers. Also, the grisly-gorgeous illustrated cover art by Mike Mez Phillips is exquisitely killer and on point. While director Hugh Gallagher mediocrely went through the nuts and bolts of vehement slasher violence without really thickening already deep pool of gore, the director did manage to fulfill a promising title with meshing sexual deviancy and blood in an entertainingly provocative feature. Rik Billock and Gabriela, whose half naked through more than half the 82 minute runtime, embraces their twisted characters that you’ll love to death!

Dope Dealing Evil Doers Meet Their Match! “Violent Cop” review!

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In a city fueled by constant drug trafficking and violence, a weak and corrupt police department has revolving leadership, but one good cop, detective Azuma, of the vice squad doesn’t have the taste for dope. Azuma’s wild card police tactics stir much controversy in his department, placing him on extremely thin ice, but he manages to get the job done no matter the destructive, if yet effective, trail left behind. When the detective learns that his long time colleague and best friend, detective Iwaki, has been involved with trafficking drugs, Iwaki ends up dead in apparent suicide and Azuma will stop at nothing to discover the truth behind his friend’s sudden death. Azuma’s Dirty Harry-style methods catch the attention of a powerful yakuza henchman who kidnaps her and lets his entourage gang rape his mentally unstable sister and with nothing else to lose, the rogue officer shoots first and never asks questions later.
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“Violent Cop” is the breakout 1989 directorial film from Takeshi Kitano, one of the most recognizable names and faces in the revival of Japan’s film industry and a staple amongst other mediums including stage performance, television, and other various liberal arts. Kitano also headlines the yakuza genre film as the lead character, the ungovernable detective Azuma, in this unforgiving cop drama under his pseudonym ‘Beat’ Takeshi. Kitano’s harden plastered mug and short, stocky stature caters to the era of lone wolf. rogue cops, providing a hearty performance familiar to that of Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson. “Violent Cop” quietly packs a punch, patiently waiting to seize the opportunity to display explicitly graphic violence while also being sleek in it’s construction, charmingly odd in it’s humor, and basking more in the parameters of performance than in it’s exposition of dialogue, which is kitano is known more for in his acting.
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Much of the film revolves around Azuma’s cavalier and stoic personality. In the opening, three teenage boys unjustifiably harass and assault an elder homeless man. Azuma, who happened to witness the assault, follows one of the boys to his home, knocks on the door, identifies himself as a police offer to the boy’s mother, walks up the stairs alone, and slaps the boy around in his own room until the boy confesses and agrees to turn himself in at the station the following day. This introduction not only showcases Azuma’s descriptive title character as the violent cop, but also informs that the work alone Azuma has a vigilante moral principle that even isolates him from his unstable sister. Once a student of comedy, Kitano re-wrote the Hisashi Nozawa original comedic script into a brutal police drama, wanting to exhibit a serious side, but left alone some of the script’s initial comedy elements that blend the spirited yakuza film to being just inside the genre. Kitano’s progressive camera work includes deep long shots along with tight quarter setups, extensive and angled crane shots, slow motion sequences, and long track work that pinpoints Kitano’s diverse style.
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“Violent Cop” lives up to the title. Heads being bashed with an aluminum bat, multiple gory-soaked stabbings, and a sadistic, punishing maltreatments are just a few examples of “Violent Cops” barbaric qualities. The violent scenes feel almost peppered throughout, but they’re really strategically placed between character building segments that only support the necessity of brutality. Did detective Azuma really need to run over a suspect, who just murdered a colleague, down twice with the squad car? Yes, because the suspect desperately and dangerously wielded a baseball bat as a weapon and attacked them numerous time. The actions of the criminal warranted Azuma’s unethical position of bulldozing him over, twice. Only when Azuma is pushed beyond his limits does he lose what was left of any shred of restraints that were holding him back. Azuma meets an antagonistic match, a blood thirsty foe equally resistant and, at the same time, loyal with his boss, creating a villainous mirror image whose just as a loose canon as himself.
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Film Movement, the New York based award-winning and foreign cinema distributor, presents a specialized hi-definition Blu-ray treatment of “Violent Cop” in a sharply detailed 1.85:1 aspect ratio stored on a single disc BD-50. The region A disc provides the best transfer quality of this 1989 film to date with stunning, natural coloring, balanced hues, and defined edges with no signs of compression artefacts. Darker scene noise is present, but to affect the experience, the noise would need to be more extensive. With Film Movement’s release, the noise is minimal and shouldn’t be considered a factor. The Japanese LCPM 2.0 audio track is quality with no hiss or pops. Dialogue is evident in the forefront, all other tracks seem level with an accompaniment range of ambiance, and, like aforementioned, all tracks are clean and clear of distortions. Extras include a featurette entitled “That Man is Dangerous: The Birth of Takeshi Kitano” and an booklet essay with the topic of Takehsi Kitano, written by Asian film expert and film curator Tom Vick. “Violent Cop” offers no sympathy, but provides an abundance of rich, dedicated filmmaking in a raw format that seems almost archaic in the present. Film Movement and “Violent Cop” go hand-in-hand, a foreign yakuza melodrama that saw the beginning stages of rebirth in the last days of a struggling Japanese cinema market and Kitano’s face is at the forefront of that movement.

“Violent Cop” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!