There will always be an expected form of ‘hype’ whenever Asian cinema fans got wind of a film directed, written and acted by Takeshi “Beat” Kitano. From his yakuza epic, “Sonatine” to “Brother“ and on to “Battle Royale” and “Blood and Bones”, the man truly knows how to deliver a gritty, violent and artistic motion picture. I realize that I am a little late here with my review for “Outrage“ (aka. Outrage: Way of the Yakuza), but since its sequel “Outrage Beyond” is looming in the horizon for an American release, I thought perhaps that a long overdue review would prepare me for my review of its sequel.
Kitano had created a no-nonsense, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it kind of deal” with his yakuza tale “Outrage”. Kitano stars, edits, writes and directs what feels like a collection of gangster clichés, and yet somehow, he makes it compelling, disturbing and quite frankly realistic. Kitano plays Otomo, who is a gunman for a mid-level boss named Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura) who is aligned with another mid-level boss named Murase (Renji Ishibashi) who is really not part of the larger yakuza family but who wants to vie for a position in the greater yakuza community. Murase runs the risk of losing it all as he deals with drugs and this is a no-no to the head of the larger yakuza family. Ikemoto begins to turn things to his advantage, as he begins to stir up trouble in the yakuza community. But everyone appears to have an agenda of their own, from the head yakuza to the lowly enforcer, everyone wants to outlive or get more control over a turf. What follows is a game of murder and betrayal as what is set into play is something that may leave only one man left standing.
Beat Kitano is not reinventing the wheel here when it comes to yakuza films. He exploit’s the usual yakuza tropes and the story does fit into a mold that fits its premise. The film is all about double-crosses and plotting for one to get over the other. Insanely artistic in the portrayal of its violent themes, it does not feel exploitive at all, but rather the flow of the film becomes natural and authentic that the grisly images of violence becomes something that is the expression of a harsh reality. The plot is pretty standard and yet the themes it presents pretty much speak a lot for its violent screenplay. There are three themes that make the plot of “Outrage” much more layered than at first look. With the three acts of the film, the viewer is brought into the world of the yakuza and just how the rules are played within.
The first theme is the way the yakuza and the police force have formed a relationship. There is an ambiguous message as to how a corrupt detective can survive the turmoil that takes place within the yakuza simply by keeping a low-key profile and how he could work with them. The first themes is the study of how nature takes its course in the shifting of loyalties and the absence of such codes within the yakuza. It presents a lesson that can be applied in life, that one needs to be loyal to himself, otherwise the danger of being caught in the turmoil may become too risky. It is an expression as to how power can only can gained when one is willing to take it, after one secures his own order of loyalties. The third theme is just how the crime syndicates can have a huge political and cultural influence in Japan. It sends an ambiguous message that a crime syndicate will always remain intact for generations even after the bloodshed, betrayal and murder. It is almost as if it is saying that groups such as Sanno-Kai go through stages of calm order and disorder, as if to restructure itself with a new figurehead from time to time. The themes aren’t very nice but it does speak a very honest truth that applies in real life.
With a cast that just grabs attention in its screenplay, “Outrage” may feel unoriginal on the outside, and yet the editing and the direction makes it quite a cinematic experience that makes one ponder the themes that lie within. The film is pretty visceral and brutal; as it shows several grisly smack downs such a chopstick in the ear, a dental drill assault, a creative way to try to decapitate someone and so forth. The film does have a lot of bloody images to express the ruthlessness of the yakuza, and while the effects have that B-movie appeal, the way the kills were executed did not appear cheap at all. Kitano does keep his storytelling pretty simple just so it could feel natural. The actor-director also does not hog all the spotlight as performers such as Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Tetta Sugimoto had more screen time than Kitano himself. It was an expression as to how the world revolved around Kitano’s Otomo character was beyond his control, and that he could only try to ride out the waters set before him.
“Outrage” is an extremely well-made motion picture. Kitano is deathly mysterious, the supporting characters actually took the lead in the film’s storytelling and the camera work by Katsumi Yangijima had that contemporary pizzazz that made Kitano’s editing and handling of the film’s more savage sequences have a lot of punch. I suppose, the film’s one flaw is the fact that the characters did not leave the viewer any choice as to who and what to root for, Otomo isn‘t that cruel or evil, and that is exactly what the film is trying to communicate. It is a deglamorized gangster tale that just makes a stand that crime really does not pay in the long run. It is a noble artistic approach that carries a very honest message with its endless string of attacks and retaliations. The film's meaning lies in what is not being told and such a life in a yakuza may hold nothing but meaningless violence. Recommended! [4 Out of 5 Stars]
Star Rating: In an interview with Daily Yomiuri Online, Takeshi Kitano – the writer, editor, director, and star of Outrage – stated that he wrote the screenplay first by inventing the ways in which the characters would die, second by building a story around those deaths. He also said that his intention was nothing more or less than to make an entertaining film. I was prepared to struggle with writing about this film, because admittedly, watching … more