Boiling Point (1990)
By: Markus Zussner on January 21, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Eastern Eye (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 5.1. English Subtitles. 92 minutes
The Movie
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Starring: Masahiko Ono, Takahito Iguchi, Minoru Iizuka, Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Takeshi Kitano
Country: Japan
AKA: 3-4 x Jugatsu
Baseball is a rigid team sport with lots of rules and regulations that require discipline and team playing attributes. Masaki (Masahiko Ono) is really quite a pathetic baseball player. Either Masaki isn't the sporting type, or he is just bored with it all; Bored with baseball and with life in general, it doesn't make much difference to Masaki. To him the rules of life and baseball are pretty much one and the same. Both Baseball and Japanese social life have stringent rules and regulations not meant to be broken or questioned. Winning and also an acceptance within a team or group is not necessarily what Masaki seeks. Masaki is called from the sidelines by the coach to pitch-hit and lets all three near-perfect pitches fly by without swinging the bat, resulting in an accumulation of 3 strikes. Game Over. When he's not swinging a bat, Masaki works in a local garage where he doesn't fare much better with a monkey wrench. He gets into an altercation with a gangster who brings his car in for a service and thus gains the violent attention of the Yakuza. The gangster has taken offence to Masaki's poor quality of service and demands retribution. Masaki, now in a world of trouble seeks the advice of his old friend and baseball coach Takashi (Takahito Iguchi) who happens to be an ex-yakuza boss himself. Takashi suggests that Masaki head for Okinawa City to purchase a gun. Together the two make their way to Okinawa where they meet up with 'Uehara' (Beat Takeshi) a seriously twisted and psychotic ex-gangster who agrees to help them get the weapons that they need but only when he's ready. Uehara is quite happy to help them out especially since he is a long time enemy of the gangster that Masaki has had altercations with. Problem is Uehara is so deranged that both Masaki and Takashi wonder if they will ever escape Uehara's company in one piece. As the story reaches its inevitable conclusion, a bullied boy, a baseball coach and a psychotic Yakuza are all about to reach their boiling point.   

Let me introduce to you Takeshi Kitano and Beat Takeshi. For those of you who get easily confused like me, when after a hard days work, your brain goes into shutdown mode and the drool on your chin is a commonplace fashion accessory; there may be some confusion as to who 'Takeshi Kitano' and 'Beat Takeshi' are. I'll make this real easy. Essentially they are the same person. All you need to know is when he puts on his Directors hat he uses 'Takeshi Kitano' his given name. When he is acting and pulling off one of his insane performances he changes hats and becomes 'Beat Takeshi'. I'm sure that someone reading this will be screaming out loud that they already know all this, but believe me when I say this 'not everyone knows everything like you do'. As Director, Boiling Point was Takeshi Kitano's second film after Violent Cop and Sonatine followed as his third film in his Yakuza trilogy. Takeshi has only a small role in Boiling Point and does not appear until about half way through the film, but when he does he unleashes an insane yet subtly subdued performance as the psychotic ex-yakuza, Ueharaa.

When many people think, 'Yakuza Movie' they usually think of John Woo films like Hard Boiled. Both Kitano and Woo couldn't be on more opposite ends of the scale when weaving their Yakuza tales. Woo's depiction of action and violence is portrayed with the grace of a finely choreographed ballet drawn out to last an onscreen eternity with giddy slow motion cameras track as empty ammo magazines bounce, clanking across marble floors like loaded dice on a roulette table, whereas Kitano goes for the 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' action style with a gritty hard and fast realism that's over before you know it. There were also certain scenes in Boiling Point that reminded me so much of scenes from Pulp Fiction. There's a scene in Boiling Point where Uehara takes Masaki and Takashi to one of his nightclubs, and here dialogue is spoken over a painfully slow camera pan of the disinterested and expressionless faces of Uehara's men gazing glassy-eyed into the camera. This scene is similar to the statically shot scene in Pulp Fiction where Bruce Willis stares into the camera while Ving Rhames delivers his lines off-screen. Both these scenes pulled off the same effect with the same intended humour, but to give credit where credit is due, Boiling Point did it first and to hand over some more credit; Tarantino sure knows how to pay homage to the coolest of movies.

Taking a look at the social commentary of Boiling Point, I found Takeshi Kitano's second outing as writer/director to be a satirical yet surreal look at the uneasy change of Japanese youth culture. For the first time ever in its history, Japan is experiencing a generation gap. The Japanese have even invented a term to label it, 'shinjinrui' or 'the new breed', relating to the attitude and behaviour of the Japanese population under the age of thirty. The shinjinrui came of age during the 70's and pretty much from here onward the generation have had little or no post war trauma experience which had kept the old post war traditions alive and robust for so long. So now Japanese youth are rebelling in the schools, in the malls and out on the streets, breaking the old rules and customs of public social behaviour and rejecting the ideal of working a lifetime exclusively for one employer. This is without a doubt giving traditional Japanese mums and dads a big headache, but social change is inevitable. It was only a matter of time before Japanese youth culture erupted like a super volcano. Western cultures have never really understood Japan's group-centric type of culture. To us westerners, the rapid incline of individualism would seem a natural progression but culture does not change easily and usually means a significant increase in violent crime. The youth of Japan are looking for a different future. A future with choices; a future not so rigid or ordered or firmly rooted to the ground just like the rules of Baseball. This seems to be the underlying message of Boiling Point and is apparent as the movie winds up where it started. In a dry and dusty Baseball pitch.
Boiling Point is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement. The picture quality is clear and blemish free. Colours are rich and vibrant. An example of the wonderful colours and textures are shown in a scene where Uehara wanders through a field of tiger lilies. For a moment I thought that the tiger lily scene was animated, with its vibrant orange flowers literally illuminating the entire frame. It is this treatment of colour that enhance some of the more surreal moments like the stunning tiger lily scene.
5.1 Dolby digital in Japanese. Crisp clear sound. No audio his or hum. No music soundtrack for Boiling Point which works extremely well for this type of movie and the social themes that it attempts to address.
Extra Features
A Boiling Point Trailer, trailers for other Takeshi Kitano films, and a selection of Madman promotional trailers.
The Verdict
Boiling Point is a surreal and sometimes satirical look at surviving and changing the rules of a morphing social infrastructure. It's about standing up for yourself and defending your honour. It's about change and looking for something meaningful to live for. It's Yakuza blood and violence served up Takeshi style, brutal, swift and nasty. Throw in lashings of pulp-drama and a dab of surreal humour a la David Lynch. Stir gently and bring to a Boiling Point. Serve hot.
Movie Score
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