A year and a half after the popular Japanese police comedy-action series ended, it was time to bring back the crazy Wangan Police Station to the big screen and it was a monster hit film in 1998, and for good reason.
A dead body is found smack dab in the middle of the river and members of the Wangan police station and the Metropolitan police station find themselves at war at who will take this case on depending on where the body floats. With their luck, Wangan police have the body, which strangely has a stuffed teddy bear in the body’s stomach cavity. As Wangan police attempt to solve this case, things are about to go from bad to worse. When police commissioner Yoshida has been kidnapped in the Wangan area, Metropolitan’s high ranking officers have taken over a portion of the Wangan station.
This causes conflict between former friends Aoshima, Wangan’s top inept detective and Muroi, who has risen through the ranks to work for Metropolitan HQ. To make matters worse, the petty crimes are given to Wangan, including missing reimbursement receipts and other things. However, when Aoshima and another Kashiwagi come upon a strange Internet chat room involving suicidal people, they may have stumbled across they never imagined that connects both the murder and the kidnapping. Will Aoshima be able to make amends with his one-time friend and convince him to solve the case together or will Wangan be relegated as always to lower class level?
In 1997, Fuji Television Network unleashed a police action-comedy series that surrounded around the bureaucratic issues rather than take the usual approach of lots of chases and action. Here, it was more a look behind the scenes with the office being the central workspace of the series. Having ran from January to March (a staple of J-dramas being about 11-12 episodes long), the series was one of Fuji TV’s most popular series and as a result, the idea was brought to bring a continuation to the big screen. However, you will not to really watch the series to understand this film adaptation.
Smartly, the cast from the series return in their roles, with Yuji Oda in what would be one of his best known roles, the bumbling but hard-working Shunsaku Aoshima. Oda brings a lot of comic relief along with Eri Fukatsu, who plays the stern and sometimes violent Sumire Onda. Onda contemplates resigning due to the fact that she feels unappreciated, but it is Aoshima who keeps her in stride and their chemistry works well here as they attempt to solve both the mysterious murder and kidnapping of the commissioner.
The Wangan’s rivals, Metropolitan HQ, are a bunch of tough guys who think just because they are higher class, they can act all nouveau riche and get the gourmet food while our Wangan heroes are stuck with instant ramen. Muroi, played with constant sternness by Toshiro Yanagiba, who was Aoshima’s friend turned rival, is the most level headed of the HQ boys, often questioning both his loyalty to his new position and a promise he once made to Aoshima. Miki Mizuno of Hard Revenge Milly fame does quite well as the young Kashiwagi, who helps Aoshima with the case as well.
While the film does have quite a bit of comedy, at times with Kyoko Koizumi’s website owner who plays her as if she should be starring in a horror film, there are also some very serious tones to the story in terms of the cases. This is notable especially in the third act, in which the film takes a very shocking turn that leads to quite an ending that really meshes in the central plot of the film. The film would ultimately do so well that a few more TV specials and three sequels would be released, ending the saga on the year of the original series’ fifteenth anniversary in 2012.
Bayside Shakedown: The Movie is a fun action-comedy ride that is different from the usual police films of old and new. You do not necessarily have to watch the series to enjoy this first of four films. Yuji Oda and crew make this first film very enjoyable.
WFG RATING: B+
A Fuji Television Network Ltd. production. Director: Katsuyuki Motohiro. Producers: Toru Horibe, Chikahiro Ando, Chihiro Kameyama, and Hirotsugi Usui. Writer: Ryoichi Kimizuka. Cinematography: Osamu Fujiishi. Editing: Hiroshi Matsuo.
Cast: Yuji Oda, Toshiro Yanagiba, Eri Fukatsu, Miki Mizuno, Chosuke Ikariya, Soichiro Kitamura, Takehiko Ono, Kyoko Koizumi.