BOILING POINT (3-4X JUGATSU)(director/writer: Takeshi Kitano; cinematographer: Katsumi Yanagishima; editor: Toshio Taniguchi; cast: Koichi Akiyama (Petrol Pump Attendant), Takeshi Kitano (Uehara), Masahiko Ono (Masaki), Yuriko Ishida (Sayaka), Takahito Iguchi (Takashi Iguchi), Johnny Okura (Minamizaka), Hisashi Igawa (Otomo, the gang boss), Takahiko Aoki (Saburo), Makoto Ashikawa (Akira), Jennifer Baer (Woman on beach), Bengal (Muto); Runtime: 96; ICA/Bandai; 1990-Jap.)
“It’s a cult film that delights as a cruel form of entertainment.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Japanese director Takeshi “Beat” Kitano is unique. His absurd style of filmmaking gives him international clout. He has a fascination with gangsters, violence, and in presenting his quirky black humor in a most compelling way. His films are always visually startling. So far, all his films have gotten away with a mindless but intriguing story line bent on violence. In his second feature, Boiling Point doesn’t live up to the high standards of his later films shown in America (Violent Cop/Sonatine/Fireworks). Kitanoo has a small part as Uehara, a mesmerizing psychotic yakuza killer. He is even too crazy and violent for the organized crime gang he once was a part of and is so fascinating to watch, that it’s a shame we couldn’t see more of him. The supporting cast even with their deadpan humor still cannot carry the film.
Kitano, also, relishes giving women roles that could be considered demeaning. Through use of sick humor he humiliates them. There is never any meaningful romance in his films, and this one is no exception.
Boiling Point begins and ends on a sandlot baseball field where only the amateur players attend, except for the coach’s girlfriend and later on for the sweet girlfriend, Sayaka (Yuriko Ishida), of the deadpan star of the film, Masaka (Ono). Masaka picks Sayaka up in a restaurant because that’s what his friend tells him to do. Masaka is a loser. He is inarticulate, moronic, and the worst one on a losing baseball team. Masaka is also an inept gas station attendant and when he fails to properly service a local yakuza’s car, he gets punched out and threatened. But when Masaka punches back, the yakuza claims his arm is broken and he wants compensation. The dispute escalates on both sides and, of course, it makes no sense. But it is made a big deal when the local yakuza head, Otomo (Igawa), comes to see the gas station owner and demands revenge.
The baseball coach (Takahito Iguchi), an ex-yakuza, tries to come to the rescue of Masaka and is pummeled by the gang. The coach wants to go to Okinawa to see his friend, the vicious ex-yakuza Uehara (Kitano), who will sell him a gun. But since he is too beaten up to get out of bed, Masaka volunteers to go with one of his baseball friends.
Masaka meets the maniacal Uehara in a disco bar and the gangster performs a series of violent acts: rape, intimidation, abuse, mutilation, and murder. This is all casually done, as if this kind of mayhem was as natural as eating rice cakes.
By some strange luck, the two baseball players return alive and with their guns. Meantime, Uehara walks into the yakuza chief’s headquarters armed with his associate’s finger and a AK-47 hidden in a bouquet of wildflowers, as he settles up with the yakuza who wants his finger and the money back that was embezzled from him.
If there is any point to this story and I am not sure there is, but the message might be that friends are needed to help you out. No one is immune from the insanity that is in the air. According to Kitano: insanity is catching and is everywhere, and if you stand alone the odds are that you will lose. Even in a structured country like Japan, enamored by a structured game like baseball, not everyone plays by the rules.
This original film was visually appealing and is like a Buster Keaton burlesque with Martin Scorsese and Dirty Harry flavor thrown in for bad luck. It’s a cult film that delights as a cruel form of entertainment.
Incidentally, the American title to the film, Boiling Point, is misleading: in Japanese the title refers in slang to a tie baseball score.
REVIEWED ON 11/5/99 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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