Film Review: Outrage

Violent crime tale is Takeshi Kitano’s best film in years.

As violent, amoral and misanthropic as a Jacobean play, Outrage is Takeshi Kitano's first yakuza flick since Brother (2000), and arguably his best film in a decade. Cleansed of his pretentious navel-gazing of recent years, it bursts with the direct cinematic power of his early works (A Violent Cop, Sonatine), though his style is less minimalist and characters less taciturn. In fact, his representation of internecine gang rivalry and an imploding power structure stands up to Kinji Fukasaku's seminal Battle Without Honor series in complexity and unsentimental attitude, with humor as mean and dry as a straight-up martini.

Commercially, the screenplay's sprawling structure and absence of traditional, balletic showdowns might not satisfy mainstream appetites. However, individual nerve-tingling scenes of violence will make the film reach beyond Kitano's art-house admirers to lovers of genre and noir films.

Outrage opens with a traditional Japanese banquet held by the Sanno-kai crime syndicate, with guests in neat black suits and waiters in white tracksuits serving them. This emblematic exhibition of hierarchy and order is but an illusion, and the finale ironically stages a beach barbecue where everyone gets fried.

Underboss Kato (Tomokazu Miura) ticks off subsidiary boss Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura) for being too close with lesser, outsider gang Murase. Since Ikemoto has made a pact of brotherhood with Murase, he asks another subsidiary head, Otomo (Kitano, aka Beat Takeshi), to do the dirty work of roughing up Murase. Their actions trigger a vicious circle of vendettas and turf wars that also implicate a corrupt cop and an African ambassador.

The double-crosses are convoluted beyond description, but the film is forceful in its simplicity and clarity of vision—personal interest trumps any ties or pledges in the yakuza creed. Finger-cutting occurs in every other scene, but it has lost its worth as a ritual of honorable apology, whereas the real violence is ignominious and each execution outdoes the previous one in cruelty. Kitano provokes viewers by designing violence that makes us giggle out of nervousness, like a scene in a dentist's chair that parodies Marathon Man. But the cyclical conflicts give the narrative a flat tempo with no high point or catharsis.

The veteran members of the ensemble cast who seldom appear in yakuza roles (except Renji Ishibashi) are distinct yet impersonal. Ryo Kase, who usually plays the mellow guy next-door, forges a new image as a cocky gangster with comic timing for wisecracks in English.

Kitano's own editing is elaborate yet precise at the same time. Costume design achieves a matching effect with combinations of black, white and gray achieving the epitome of cool.
The Hollywood Reporter