Any movie that starts with a guy taking a dump in the dark has got to be a comedy, right? You can’t get much quirkier than a guy like Masaki (played by Masahiko Ono), who’d rather zone out in a portaloo than strike out in a friendly baseball game. Nevertheless, some of the moments in “Beat” Takeshi Kitano’s second feature are darker than the inside of a blocked up honey bucket.
At the beginning of the film, Masaki is an ultra-passive character contrasted by his quick-tempered coach. Iguchi (Takahito Iguchi) used to be a member of the Yakuza, which comes in handy when Masaki offends a member of the local Otomo gang. But even Iguchi lacks the pull to placate the neighbouring hoods, so Masaki goes to Okinawa to buy a gun. Big mistake. He hooks up with crazed mobster Uehara (Kitano), who counts murder and rape as a day’s good work. It’s like asking your least favorite uncle to take care of the kids at a Christmas party – drunken dismemberment is bound to ensue.
Although Uehara only appears in one act, the contrast between his personality and Masaki’s forms the crux of the movie. Masaki would rather watch than participate, avoiding trouble if he can, his life as vacuous as his expression. Uehara pictures something in his head then immediately acts on it. His life might be shorter but it’s a hell of a lot more fun.
As a director, Kitano keeps the tempo slow and tranquil, which makes the occasional explosions of violence all the more effective. The rhythm is more art house than action movie, with long, languid takes, minimal dialogue and a lack of incidental music. Peripheral, unnamed characters come and go and the ending is ambiguous – there’s a hint that Masaki imagined the whole adventure.
Boiling Point isn’t as slick as Kitano’s other early efforts like Violent Cop or Sonatine. Second Sight’s DVD version doesn’t help, with its serious frame stutter – presumably in the transfer from NTSC to PAL. But the flick’s low budget rough-and-readiness suits the setting and main character.
As gangster movies go, this film lacks pace and polish. But it’s a great slice-of-life look at Japan, and recommended for anyone familiar with Kitano’s bigger, better films.
Boiling Point is available now.