Director Kensuke Sonomura started off as a stunt performer and coordinator, so it’s no surprise that his second directorial effort contains lashings of hand-to-hand combat. Indeed, just as the climactic cops v gangsters showdown is about to kick off, elderly lawman Torada (Hitoshi Ozawa) urges everyone not to use silly, unsporting guns, and miraculously both sides agree and go to it with fists and knives. It’s just as well because, hitherto, almost every time someone has fired a gun in anger in this film they have missed the target. Does that mean all those movies where folks hit their target with one bullet are lying? Or is this one, where everyone is pants at shooting, the misrepresentation? Either way, it’s almost enough to make you question your core beliefs in the efficacy of cinematic firearms.
Anyway, if you like watching actors and stunt folk battle it out, this is great stuff but the connecting plot strung between fights is more of a chore. In fictional Japanese metropolis Kaiko City, corruption is rife and it all seems to stem from Wataru Gojo (Lily Franky) who has designs on redeveloping a poor part of the city. As Gojo is announcing his bid to become Kaiko’s mayor, we see a bathhouse of lushly tattooed yakuza get wiped out by a single long-haired squinting assassin (Tak Sakaguchi). Is he working for Madam (Rino Katase), queenpin of the Korean mafia in Kaiko, who rather entertainingly dresses like someone trying to shoplift all the stock from a Versace boutique at the same time. The chief prosecutor and his assistant put together a taskforce of honest cops from the Violent Crimes unit, and place Torada in charge, even though up until now he’s been in jail on charges that connect him to Madam.
Now in his 60s, Ozawa was a major player back in the days of Japan’s V-Cinema, straight-to-video films that were cult viewing in the 1980s and 90s; consequently Bad City represents a retro homage to the pulpy values of that subgenre. Some viewers may find it a little too pulpy, reliant as it is on boilerplate dialogue, and it is not exactly rich in subtlety. All the nuance is in the grace of the fight scenes, as lovingly choreographed as a production of Swan Lake.
• Bad City is released on 6 March on digital platforms.