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Japanese TV star, comedian, and sophomore director "Beat" Takeshi Kitano added screenwriter to his résumé for his second feature, the offbeat story of meek, passive gas station attendant and benchwarming minor-league baseball player Masaki (Masahiko Ono), who finally rebels against the insults and abuse. His timing couldn't be worse, however, for he lashes out against an ill-mannered yakuza soldier. When the local crime boss embarks on a campaign of harassment and beatings aimed at Masaki's coworkers and baseball teammates, Masaki flies off to Yokohama to buy a gun, and falls in with a charismatic but brutal gangster (Takeshi) who has his own score to settle with the yakuza. Perhaps Kitano's most oblique film, Boiling Point is made up primarily of digressions, notably the rambling middle, where Takeshi's disgraced mobster takes Masaki and his pal on a tour of local nightlife, a sequence of pokerfaced gags and dry, ironic humor twisted around Takeshi's brutal, misogynist antics. The film lacks the drive and compelling narrative of Takeshi's other gangster pictures (notably his masterpiece, Sonatine, which revives many of the cinematic ideas first explored in this film), but rises to life in some astounding sequences: a flashforward delivered as an adrenaline rush of images, the chilling yet comic eruption of a bouquet of flowers, and an underplayed apocalyptic climax, followed by a tender coda. (17**)

Boiling Point (Widescreen)

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