Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Takeshi Kitano
Producer: Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida
Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Tomokazu Miura, Jun Kunimura, Tetta Sugimoto, Takashi Tsukamoto, Hideo Nakano, Renji Ishibashi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Soichiro Kitamura, Yukiyo Tanahashi, Naoko Watanabe
Running Time: 109 min.
“Outrage” is Takeshi ‘Beat’ Kitano’s first Yakuza film in ten years (since 2000’s “Brother“). Kitano himself admitted he designed the film from the ground up to be a commercial crowd-pleaser, a goal that seems well within his reach as writer, director, editor, and supporting actor. While “Outrage” may not be commercial in the Hollywood sense, it is easily one of the most swiftly-paced and violent movies of Kitano’s career. Whereas his previous gangster pictures saw him using violence as a way to punctuate scenes of poetic silence, in “Outrage” it feels like somebody is brutally beaten or murdered at least once every ten minutes. This is a merciless film. It’s also one of the most purely entertaining gangster pictures to come down the pike in quite some time.
Takeshi Kitano doesn’t exactly break new ground in the Yakuza genre with “Outrage” but that doesn’t seem to be the point. Its tale of a quiet war between two Yakuza families is well-told and thoroughly engaging. The story presents the Yakuza as the ultimate cut-throat corporation; you’re just as likely to be slated for an execution as you are a promotion. There is a “Godfather”-like level of scheming and manipulation going on behind the scenes. The message I took away from the film was something like: in a world where your sworn brothers can betray you at any moment, it’s better to go out in a blaze of glory than wait to be hunted down like an animal.
I dare say “Outrage” is close to being a perfect Yakuza movie, but for a lengthy subplot in the middle of the film concerning the Gbannan ambassador. Not only does this sequence feature some awkwardly voiced English dialogue, but it trades in the kind of casual racism that Japanese society has long been in the shadow of. Although one could argue that this subplot is crucial since it shows how the Yakuza are able to use diplomatic immunity to cover their crimes, I imagine most viewers will find these scenes to be poorly acted and in bad taste. The African ambassador is portrayed as a clueless stooge of the Yakuza, engaging in illegal gambling and drug trafficking, and is at least once the butt of a racist joke. If you could excise this entire subplot, the film would be close to flawless – unfortunately, it causes the film to sag around the halfway mark, right when the plot should be gaining momentum.
I would be amiss to reveal much more about “Outrage” because part of the pleasure in watching it is that you have no idea who’s going to live or die, or who’s manipulating who. The sudden and graphic bursts of violence are even more gruesome than your average horror movie – I pride myself on having an iron stomach when it comes to gore but a scene at the dentist’s office managed to leave me rattled. At the same time, I found myself frequently laughing out loud during parts of “Outrage.” There’s a certain absurd quality to the sight of a bunch of well-dressed Japanese men sitting in barely-furnished office rooms, delivering guttural yells and ordering each other to cut off their pinky fingers. Takeshi Kitano ‘gets’ it – he embraces the limitations and dark humor of this genre he knows so well.
The blu-ray from Magnet features an immaculate visual transfer that helps highlight the gorgeous cinematography – this has some of the best lighting I’ve seen in a film all year. I can whole-heartedly recommend a purchase for anyone curious about this film. Long-time fans of Kitano may be disappointed that “Outrage” lacks the outwardly poetic and meditative quality of films like “Sonatine” or “Violent Cop,” but much like Takashi Miike’s “13 Assassins,” this film represents a master of his craft operating at the height of his powers in a commercial mode. See it sooner rather than later.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 8.5/10