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Bayside Shakedown
|     review    |     availability     |     also see      |

Eri Fukatsu and Yuji Oda
  AKA: Bayside Shakedown: The Movie  
  Japanese: 踊る大捜査線 THE MOVIE
  Year: 1998  
  Director: Katsuyuki Motohiro  
  Writer: Ryoichi Kimizuka  
  Cast: Yuji Oda, Toshiro Yanagiba, Eri Fukatsu, Miki Mizuno, Chosuke Ikariya, Yusuke Santamaria, Soichiro Kitamura, Takehiko Ono, Kyoko Koizumi, Kenta Satoi, Toshio Kakei, Daisuke Ryu, Shigeru Koyama  
The Skinny: Big-budget film version of the popular Odoru Daisosasen television series is a slyly satirical, satisfying piece of entertainment. Despite some easy plot contrivances and an ultimate dip into maudlin sappiness, this is fun stuff.
   
Review
by Kozo:

Bayside Shakedown is the big-screen sequel to a popular Japanese television drama called Odoru Daisosasen. The series ran in Japan in 1997, and was followed up by three television specials before finally getting its big screen debut. Singer Yuji Oda stars as Shunsaku Aoshima, a hot-blooded detective for the Wangan Police Station in Tokyo. Their job: to solve whatever crimes occur in the regional area of Wangan. Their problem: bureaucracy, or the meddling of superior officers who are more concerned with money and that elusive thing called "face".

Unlike your usual cop cinema heroes, Aoshima and his comrades do not carry guns. In fact, during the entire two-hour running time of Bayside Shakedown, the principals almost never go so far as to threaten anyone with bodily harm. Instead, these everyday heroes attempt to investigate a variety of crimes while dodging the disapproving fingers of bean counters and dealing with discrimination from the bigwigs at Police HQ. The weapon of choice? Not attitude or righteousness or a swift kick to the rear. Nope, all it takes to be a hero in the world of Bayside Shakedown is simply the desire to try harder.

The selling points of the Bayside Shakedown series (including the aforementioned TV series and 2003 sequel) do not include guns, car chases, or gratuitous violence. This is all droll, fairly human stuff about goodhearted cops who merely want to do their jobs, and are confounded by the office politics preventing them from doing so. Aoshima's old pal Muroi (the dour Toshiro Yanagiba) left the Wangan Police Station to make it in the stratified ranks of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. Muroi and Aoshima dream of cooperation between local and metropolitan cops, and their shared promise is at the heart of the film's big conflict. The commissioner of police has been kidnapped, and the Wangan locals are at odds with the Metropolitan Police as to how to solve this crime.

Muroi is given leadership over the Tokyo Metro Police detail, which happens because he came from a no-name college and not Tokyo University like his colleague Shinjo (Toshio Kakei). You see, the bigwig handing out the assignment also went to Tokyo U., and doesn't want his fellow alumnus to look bad if the operation goes to hell. Ergo, he sets Muroi up to take the fall. Exciting stuff, huh? It sounds about as interesting as dueling badgers, but that's pretty much what the crux of Bayside Shakedown is: individuals silently battling larger bureaucratic forces.

Muroi takes the assignment and proceeds to fumble it thanks to the too-thick Tokyo Metro Police playbook. Luckily he has Aoshima going Rambo, which means he actually tries to arrest bad guys before getting a notarized go ahead. He also shows up to help when he's not supposed to, and tackles more than one case at a time. All very low-key stuff, but that's what you're getting in Bayside Shakedown. Director Katsuyuki Motohiro and cronies don't try very hard to sell this Care Bear cop world, and why should they? After all, the film had a massive fan following before its release, and as such was not created to win fans worldwide. It's just more of the same for people who liked the original series.

Thankfully, the open-minded and less action-inclined can derive some enjoyment from the proceedings. Bayside Shakedown features well-drawn characters and amusing interoffice conflicts. Adorable Eri Fukatsu is the Wangan Police Station's toughest cookie Sumire, a diminutive policewomen who's overworked and eternally grousing over the better lunches given to city bigwigs - and yet she still goes about her job with a quiet ferocity. Wangan senior inspector Heihachiro Waku (Chosuke Ikariya) chooses logic over bureaucratic pecking order, and wisely referees the fledgling cooperation between Aoshima and Muroi.

One subplot - about a thief stealing expense receipts in the Wangan Police Station - is particularly rich and quietly develops in the background. The cops are upset because they want to be reimbursed for their on-the-job expenses, and without receipts it can't get done. The bean counters are happy because no receipts equals no expense reports. Not as important as a kidnapping or a murder (in yet another plotline, a floater appears with a teddy bear implanted in his stomach), but here it's practically given equal weight. Go figure.

Bayside Shakedown does have a few glaring debits. The big criminal cases are solved with equally big plot contrivances, and the last half-hour of the film is as slow-motion sappy as you can get. Director Motohiro has a fine handle on his characters, but when he gets emotional it's time for amped up slow motion and cheesy sentimentality. Some people might find the "gotta salute the brave cop" finale to be a little too syrupy for their Lethal Weapon-hardened sensibilities, and Motohiro could have easily toned down some of the sappy stuff. But this is a Japanese film, and such overextended sappiness is pretty common from the world's leading followers of the cult of cute.

Ultimately, Bayside Shakedown has enough cultural charm and winning human themes to make it a rousing, refreshingly different sort of cop movie. Fans of grittier films will probably be put off by the four-color cleanliness of the whole affair, but that's no surprise. This is big-budget stuff aimed for Japanese moviegoers, and shouldn't be expected to charm Middle America - or Australia for that matter. If you can cotton to the charms of Bayside Shakedown, then this movie (and its superior sequel) are fun stuff. If not, there's a Jean Claude Van-Damme movie waiting for you at Blockbuster. (Kozo 1999/2004)

   
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
Also see: Bayside Shakedown 2 (2003)
Bayside Shakedown 3: Set the Guys Loose! (2010)
Bayside Shakedown 4: The Final (2012)
Negotiator: Mashita Masayoshi (2005)
The Suspect: Muroi Shinji (2005)
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