The Violence Action Movie Review: A compelling principal character in this flawed and overdone action flick
The sweet simplicity exuding from the lead character’s person makes this entertaining and over-the-top action film a compelling watch
The Violence Action is a live action adaptation of the Japanese manga series of the same name written by Shin Sawada and illustrated by Renji Asai. Directed by Tôichirô Rutô, this is one adrenaline-inducing, nonstop ride of slaying assassins, manipulative Yakuza members, gawkish college kids, back-stabbing mafia accountants, loyalty, honour and vengeance. There’s a lot to pack in here but be sure to leave some room for the sheer innocence of its endearing lead character.
Director – Tôichirô Rutô
Cast – Kanna Hashimoto, Yôsuke Sugino, Oji Suzuka, Fumika Baba, Takashi Okamura, Katsunori Takahashi, Jirô Satô, Yûri Ota
Streaming On – Netflix
Its all-combat entertainment style involving martial arts, knives, guns, swords and chase sequences brings out every conceivable genre plot point to its 111-minute runtime. Maybe an anime adaptation would have worked better for the outrageousness of its fight scenes. The action derives much inspiration from early Tarantino, John Wick, Kate, and most recently, Carter. It certainly does not live up to the stylised violence of these titles but it does make a decent attempt. Comparing it specifically to Kate and Carter, it looks as if the director and scriptwriter Rutô, co-writer Itaru Era and the whole stunt team borrowed enough elements from each. While Kate examined a deep vulnerability within its eponymous character, Carter’s far- reaching action imagery will set a standard in the genre for years to come. Narrative-wise, The Violence Action surpasses the latter but falls short of the former.
Its all-round gimmicky approach, notwithstanding, it is entertainment through and through. Principal character Kei is accorded an engaging portrayal thanks to Kanna Hashimoto. There are two distinct sides to her young persona. The endearing college kid with hopes of excelling at her bookkeeping course and dreams of making something of her own life turns into this highly trained hit woman in the after-hours. She works for a three-member agency that carries out assassinations on request. The organisation poses as an elite call girl service online and is present in the form of a crumbling ramen joint in the real world. Kei is provided vital intelligence from the boss (the female owner of the joint) and is driven around by a comic relief character named Zura. Kei moves in on her target in the guise of a call girl and takes everyone out before they know what’s hit them. The opening sequence has her saving a young woman from a dingy hotel filled with male criminals. It is that signature style of fighting, turning anything next to her into a weapon, without bringing emotion or baggage into it that stands out. Things in her life get complicated when two opposing Yakuza clans avail of her services one after another.
The over-reliance on puerile gags makes the humour fall flat; Zura’s hairpiece, the boss’ inedible ramen and the inordinate screaming and play fighting amongst themselves are prime instances. Even an influential Yakuza boss attempting to crack dad jokes (with his subordinates) and laughing in the most contrived way to prove a point could be included in the same category. The sexist, male assassin, with robotic prowess and almost no weakness to speak of (dressed in all white and spewing some mumbo jumbo about a three-strikes-rule) is a nod to the old-school villain of bygone cinema.
What does impress about The Violence Action is Kanna Hashimoto’s acting. The psychological switch from her part-time job of slashing and dashing to her regular life of homework, geeking out on manga and goofing off with friends is as natural as day turning into night. Her innocence is something to behold, making you wonder how she reconciles these wildly different aspects of her being. By her own admission, she doesn’t bring emotion into her other work. That perhaps best explains how she transitions into her usual self so seamlessly. She goes about her business in a matter-of-fact manner – practical and unemotional as opposed to stone-cold. A perfect example of the aforesaid innocence is witnessed when Kei is assigned to take out an accountant who has betrayed two warring Yakuza syndicates. It doesn’t matter that Terano (Yôsuke Sugino), the young man in question, has feelings for her…feelings she reciprocates. A job is a job, after all. When the mafia orders her to wait for their arrival, the duo engages in an affable conversation, with Terano knowing that his fate is sealed one way or another. She even does her homework in this strange environment as he plays the role of teacher. This romantic bond between Kei and Terano plays out in the mould of a classic Korean drama type love story.
Though the action sequences are a tad over-the-top with much overacting taking place across the board, it is the sweet simplicity exuding from the main character’s person that makes The Violence Action a rather compelling watch. Had it done away with the unnecessary gimmickry, the film would have surely placed above average. Watch it for the entertainment value.