Uncharacteristically subpar effort from “Beat” Takeshi Kitano about a young baseball player who gets involved with the yakuza after a minor incident with an obnoxious thug. The baseball element ends up being a burden; there is countless footage of the sport with little rhyme or reason, save for a fetishistic adoration for the game itself. The main plot is pretty threadbare, typical for Kitano. However, the lead character is fairly nondescript and dumb, and some of the key supporting characters are nothing to write home about. The film truly picks up when Kitano himself enters the scene as an off-the-rails, rebellious gangster. One of his early appearances, involving his use of multiple bottles to make a point to an uncooperative hood, is easily the most lively moment up to that point, and kicks off the lengthy chunk of the film that is tolerable merely for Kitano’s screen presence and his keen, deadpan handling of his own material. Nonetheless, he is not the central character, and his extreme antics, when not the focus of the story, do not have quite the same effect as his star vehicles. The framing, staging, and production design are all top-notch, but in service of a relatively tepid story that does not hit any emotional notes.
Slightly Recommended for fans of Beat Takeshi and off-kilter yakuza films. As far as Takeshi films go, I’d start with Violent Cop, Fireworks, or Brother first.