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With: "Beat" Takeshi, Masahiko Ono, Yuriko Ishida, Takahito Iguchi, Minoru Iizuka
Written by: Takeshi Kitano
Directed by: Takeshi Kitano
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Running Time: 96
Date: 09/15/1990

Boiling Point (1990)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Batter Up

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Boiling Point (1990) is the second of Takeshi Kitano's seven films and the third to be released in San Francisco. His later films Sonatine (1993) and Fireworks (1997) were both released here last year. In all three of these, Kitano directs under his given name, Takeshi Kitano, and acts under his nickname, "Beat" Takeshi. He's like a Japanese Orson Welles with a little Martin Scorsese and Jerry Lewis thrown in.

Kitano takes a small role in Boiling Point and only turns up halfway through. The main character is Masaki (Masahiko Ono), a sad-sack baseball player. The movie opens on a dark shot with our hero's face barely illuminated and deep in thought. The next shot reveals that Masaki is sitting in an outhouse near a ballfield where a game is in progress. He is suited up, but apparently has not played. The coach calls him up to pinch-hit and he lets three perfect strikes go by without swinging. The pace and presentation of this sequence had me giggling.

Masaki also works at a gas station where he doesn't fare much better. He gets into a fight with a gangster who has come to get his car serviced, insuring the wrath of the Yakuza (the Japanese mafia). So, at the behest of a former Yakuza friend (Takahito Iguchi), Masaki travels to Okinawa to get a gun.

Masaki's contact in Okinawa is Kitano himself, an absolute loon of a gangster whose deadpan explosions of violence are perfectly timed for comedy. Masaki has to wait around until it suits Kitano to deliver the guns. There's a night of karaoke, a strange sex scene, and a day at the beach. These scenes are so deadpan that I found myself laughing hours later when I recalled them. In one scene, Kitano has disguised a gun in a bouquet of flowers. Standing in an office full of gangsters the flowers suddenly go off, shooting holes in the ceiling. Not one face cracks any kind of expression. And when Kitano mows everyone down, keeping the tone exactly the same for both the joke and the violence, we're shocked, and then we laugh.

Boiling Point isn't as refined as Kitano's later works, but it establishes Kitano as an artist with a clear vision and distinctive style. Fans will be able to trace his growth over the past decade. And the strange ending of the movie will leave all of us thinking.

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