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
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
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
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
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.
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,
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.
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.