Bad City, 2022.
Directed by Kensuke Sonomura.
Starring Mitsu Dan, Hitoshi Ozawa, and Lily Franky.
When a corrupt businessman runs for mayor in order to further his criminal activity and starts taking out rival mafia gangs, the cops put together a special unit to take him and his gang down.
A love-letter to the violent V-Cinema thrillers of the 1980s, Bad City sees a team of honest cops from the Violent Crimes division take on a city ruled by fear and corruption. Head honcho in all this bad behaviour is Gojo (Lily Franky), a businessman/crime lord who has designs on becoming mayor in order to make millions from redeveloping the run-down areas of the fictional Kaiko City. While Gojo is announcing his political ambitions to the local TV stations, a sauna full of tattooed Yakuza types are getting slaughtered by a hitman who is quite handy with a carving knife.
Naturally, the dead bodies of other Gojo rivals, members of the Korean mafia and pretty much anyone else who ever looked at Gojo in the wrong way soon follow and so the new unit of cops goes into action, led by former cop Torada (Hitoshi Ozawa), who is also languishing in jail for his alleged part in the murder of a Korean mafia member but is given parole to do this job. Cue the inevitable massacre of dozens of faceless goons and a few lovable characters along the way to the incendiary climax.
Yes, Bad City is a movie that is at once both very stylish and extremely violent, which are good selling points, but is let down by its simple yet meandering plot that tends to slow the movie down too much in between the numerous fight scenes. Part of the problem is that are too many characters coming in and going out of the picture at any one time to really get a grasp on who is who and what part have they played in the story.
However, much of this deciphering of who does what is pointless because once it comes to the final act of the movie all bets are off as it is cop vs. thugs, and in this fight there are no guns. Stripped back and old-school, our combatants go for it with fists, knives and gravity in what amounts to a massive free-for-all. It is worth waiting for and the spectacle is handled superbly by director Kensuke Sonomura, himself a former stunt coordinator, and the casting of legendary actor Hitoshi Ozawa as grizzled cop Torada is a masterstroke as whenever he is on the screen the action, as well as the plot, is easier to follow.
As is the case with most Japanese action movies, the runtime is a little overlong for what is essentially a cop and robbers movie and the filmmakers do cram a lot in to make sure nothing is left out when it comes to details but sometimes less is more, and the pace does get terribly bogged down, especially during the first act. Nevertheless, everything comes to those who wait and if you came for the showdown then that is exactly what you are rewarded with, expertly crafted, superbly lit and a reminder that when it comes to extreme and exquisite violence, Asian cinema is still the standard bearer.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★