Violent Panic: The Big CrashMay 14, 2010
Boso panikku: Daigekitotsu (1976)
Kinji Fukasaku’s more than a decade long career in crime and yakuza film was finally closing to its end in 1976. Signs of slacking were nowhere to be found, though. On the contrary, 1976 was a strong year for Fukasaku. The brilliant Yakuza Graveyard toned down the director’s trademark hectic camerawork a few notches and took a tighter than usual focus on one man’s personal battle. Similar development was already visible in the same year’s Violent Panic: The Big Crash. While not as masterful as Yakuza Graveyard, Violent Panic does succeed in being twice as insane of an achievement.
Completely ignoring Fukasaku’s basic theme – the world of organized crime – Violent Panic follows bank robber Takashi (Tsunehiko Watase). Takashi’s plan goes wrong right from the beginning and his partner in crime is killed during the escape. With the police on his heels, Takashi’s run is further complicated by a new girlfriend (Miki Sugimoto) picked up from the bar floor, and a ruthless criminal (Hideo Murota) majorly pissed off from his brother’s death that he considers Takashi’s fault.
Loaded with reliable Toei actors, Violent Panic’s most interesting casting choice is the pinky violence star Miki Sugimoto. Like her genre sister Reiko Ike, Sugimoto was driven to look for roles in other genres as the girl boss genre went past its prime in mid 70’s. Ike found herself employed by master Fukasaku several times – in relatively small roles, though – while Sugimoto received the honor only once. Sometimes referred as Monotonic Miki, the bad girl has thankfully improved her acting range in Violent Panic. While no Meiko Kaji, she does manage her emotional role as a weak girlfriend without major shortcomings.
Storywise Violent Panic is slick and straight forward, by no means among Fukasaku’s best efforts. Unlike the grave-serious original Battles without Honor and Humanity films (1973-1974), there is a notable amount of humor included. The main responsibility for comic relief is given to Takuzo Kawatani, whose ill-tempered policeman constantly has to keep his unfaithful girlfriend (pinky violence co-star Yayoi Watanabe, who shows little attachment to her uniform… or any other clothes…) on eye. At times, Kawatani’s one man comedy show is about to step on the way of the action, but mostly he is kept in control, more or less.
What raise Violent Panic in the league of 70’s action classics is the car chase scenes. Featuring several shorter chases along the way, the film concludes in unforgettable demolition derby as the desperate Takashi attempts to escape the police, media, motorcycle gangs, and angered civilians. While not a sophisticated scene by any means, this 20 minute series of crashes and thrills is quite a jaw dropper and no doubt among the most insane pieces of car action captured on camera, in Japan or elsewhere.
Violent Panic’s finale basically summarizes the entire film. For fans of serious crime dramas the film may not have that much to offer. Those looking for fast paced action entertainment should, however, prepare to be blown away. While subplots are tied together in less than convincing way, it does little to harm the movie as the focus is in the audio-visual fireworks. The film’s soundtrack was composed by Fukasaku’s long time collaborator Toshiaki Tsushima, who showcases some of his best work in Violent Panic. While brilliantly supporting the action scenes Tsushima’s score also comes with impressive melancholic moments. These are, however, in the minority, as both Tsushima and Fukasaku invest in honest, no holds barred action entertainment.