by Daniel Baldwin
A modern celebration of classic Japanese V-cinema (their version of DTV genre fare), director Kensuke Sonomura’s Bad City unleashes a furious, fist-flying tale of crime, corruption, and righteous retribution. The story is a tale as old as time: a diabolical businessman (Lily Franky) is in league with the Korean mafia and local politicians. His goal? To bring “prosperity” to Kaiko City by bringing in casinos that no one but the rich wants. His methods? Bribery, blackmail, and murder. All that stand in his way are a handful of good cops and some honorable Yakuza with aligned interests.
At the center of it is 60-year-old genre stalwart Hitoshi Ozawa (Dead or Alive, Gozu), who also wrote the screenplay. His knowledge of and experience in Yakuza cinema comes in mighty handy here, as does his charisma and still-formidable physical prowess. He’s an absolute powerhouse as the unflappable Captain Torada and he’s surrounded by equally great supporting castmates including Tak Sakaguchi, Masanori Mimoto, Katsuya, Mitsu Dan, Akane Sakanoue, Masaya Kato, and the aforementioned Franky.
There’s nothing wholly original on display in terms of narrative, but that matters not, as Sonomura and Ozawa are aiming for grandiosity over complexity, even amidst their low budget. The plot is still filled with twists, turns, and double-crosses, but the pace moves with breakneck speed. It plows through subplots and arcs like it’s tearing through an entire season of television, ultimately offering up a narrative that is as dense as it is straightforward.
Any danger of monotony in terms of pulp crime storytelling and exposition is wiped away by the action itself. While there is the occasional moment of gun violence, the bulk of the fighting is brutal hand-to-hand combat. Fists, knives, baseball bats, pipes, and even a loudspeaker are utilized as criminals and cops wail on each other to the point of exhaustion. The fights constantly swing back and forth between martial arts, vicious groundwork, and barroom-style brawls. Said action is further punctuated by some absolutely stellar foley work, making each punch, kick, and stab sound even more painful than it looks. Throw in the fact that many of the characters are wearing sneakers – one has to be comfortable on the brawling move after all – and the bouts often sound like a massacre playing out on a basketball court.
Simply put, this is a killer slice of low budget action cinema.