Bayside Shakedown remains one of the earliest Japanese movies I've seen on the big screen many years back, and it remains one of my favourite police series for its addressing of politics within organizations, the varied crime case files the cops find themselves investigating, and of course the very likeable characters whose many quirks make them endearing. And how can anyone forget the pulsating theme tune and that end credit song as well? It's the whole package that turned me into a fan, at least for the film versions, enough for me to splurge on its pricey Japanese DVD editions.
Those into the Bayside Shakedown movies will come to realize that the film formula continues in this latest installment, with a sprawling narrative of little happenings that climax together at the finale, with comedy well balanced with drama and romance, which is again very strongly hinted at here, coupled with different police teams from Wangan Precinct of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department each handling their respective areas, and the constant tussle with the higher brass from both within the station, and the bureaucrats. Just as a tip of the iceberg, the film opens with a massive migration to a new premise which boasts state of the art anti-terrorism security measures, only for two cases to interrupt and distract our merry crew, resulting in a bold theft of three police handguns, which the perpetrators threaten to use if not for the release of a slew of criminals, hence the subtitle Let the Guys Loose.
Of course I won't dwell too much on that aspect of the narrative to keep surprises still under wraps. On the bureaucratic end, there's a new precinct chief for Wangan to be appointed and it's anyone's guess who that will be, a new liaison officer Seiichi Torikai (Shun Oguri) who makes an impact as a practitioner of servant leadership for his negotiation between land forces and the federal officers, only perhaps for this character to be extremely intriguing throughout because one's always not too sure where his loyalties are, and in some ways Shun Oguri excels in the role as the man who is more than meets the eye, who probably has his own hidden agenda and ambition to want to climb the ladder. Then there's the battle that Shinji Muroi (Toshiro Yanagiba) finds himself in as Assistant Commissioner pressured in the job not to do something morally right or to seek justice, but to do what is politically right to one's career. Which sort of reflects real world sentiments on how the higher one goes, job skill sets are likely to be out the window in exchange for how well politics gets played, and this is found in abundance especially in each of Muroi's scene where a roundtable of top brass is nothing more than everyone coming together to push their individual agendas to look good.
While that aspect of the story is what makes Bayside Shakedown a unique cops and robbers series, one cannot detract oneself from the star of the show. Yuji Oda as Shunsaku Aoshima the lead protagonist may have piled on a few more wrinkles on his boyish face, but it just means it's been such a long hiatus since we last saw him and the rest of the Wangan crew. As Section Chief now in charge of the relocation, he has plenty going on for him with a health screening that turned out for the worst, having to oversee the move of the station, an unsaid romantic dalliance with fellow colleague Sumire Onda (Eri Fukatsu) in a superbly shot sequence set to tug at your heartstrings and yet frustrate you when they fall back into restraint, an understudy in Mr Waku's nephew Shinjiro Waku (Atsushi Ito) who often quotes pearls of wisdom from his uncle's diary, and of course to seek out the thieves who had stolen his handgun from the new station armoury, as well as his misplaced iconic green overcoat. Talk about pressure!
The sprawling story also has the introduction of new characters (to me at least following only the film series) and the reintroduction of old ones who make very welcome appearances and surprises to say the least, and the sprawling tale also got itself updated to today's technology with the advent of very tech-savvy criminals who straddle both the internet world and the real world with very skillful social engineering capabilities, of misguided and easily manipulated youths who do not hesitate to resort to violence and threats to see their demands met, boiling down to good old detective legwork of the precinct beat cops who walk the talk rather than those who just talk the talk. There's also a slight cautionary subplot about the over-reliance of technology so much so that improper design could lead to detrimental results, leading to both a gripping and hilarious finale, as always.
Stay tuned for the coda at the end of the credits, because hopefully, just hopefully, we can get another film installment sometime soon. Definitely highly recommended, coming from a firm fan, and for non-fans you'll probably be converts soon enough to try and dig into past episodes to find out more about the shenanigans that happen in and around the jurisdiction of Wangan. Don't miss this!