Over the years, Japanese film maker/actor Takeshi Kitano has proved that he has what it takes to hang with the most elite crime film makers. I’d like to think of him as the Martin Scorsese of Japan. He’s done a lot of work with Yakuza stories, but has more recently branched out into other genres like romance and comedy. With Outrage, Kitano showed a return to form with a tale of violence and betrayal that takes place with break neck speed. Outrage is a fine piece of film making, although I felt like I was experiencing cinematic whip lash by the time the credits began to roll.
Partnerships aren’t very simple if you’re a member of the Yakuza. Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura) made peace with and decided to become associates with rival Yakuza gang leader Murase (Renji Ishibashi) while they were in prison. Now that they are out, things don’t seem like they are going to pan out quite like they had in mind. Sekiuchi (Soichiro Kitamura), boss of the Sanno-kai family orders Ikemoto to sever all ties and completely wipe out Murase’s family. This task is quickly handed down to Ikemoto’s violent, yet surprisingly calm subordinate, Otomo (Beat Takeshi aka Takeshi Kitano). All out war erupts and no one can trust their closest allies, as betrayals and double crossings take over the criminal underworld.
Prepare to be very confused. I know I was. This movie hits the ground sprinting and doesn’t stop until the last frame of the movie. Calling this movie slow is like calling Charles Manson sane. This speed works both to the advantage and disadvantage of the movie. The advantage was that I was never bored. I had to really try my best to keep up with all the characters and their motivations, which seemed to change very often. The disadvantage is that the movie felt sloppy at certain points. Some of the characters remained sorely undeveloped, so when a scene involving their demise came about, it felt empty. Sometimes it’s best to slow down and let the audience latch onto a character, and really get to understand what makes them tick.
Then again, who ever said the criminal underworld was simple? I respect the movie for not holding the viewer’s hand and guiding them from point A to point B. Outrage demands your full attention, and if you let it slide for just a minute, you might have a lot to catch up on. Perhaps it would have been nicer for the film to be longer. Think of if Casino was only an hour and forty minutes, but still had every plot point in it. That would feel really crammed. When I did find myself getting lost or agitated, there was something that would rope me right back in and realize that this is a good movie, you just have to get used to it. These scenes I’m talking about were normally quick pieces of brutality, but sometimes it was just a funny character or situation. That’s another good point about Outrage. Kitano injects it with a very dry and cynical sense of humor.
It’s interesting to see a lot of American gangster films and then switch over to another culture and see their take on it. There’s something unique about Yakuza films that really tickle my fancy. Their organized crime culture seems so different, yet at the same time, so similar. There’s stories of greed and violence, but set in a different place with different rules. Sometimes it was a little hard to keep track of the different families and who belonged on which side because the hierarchal structure of their syndicates and families is different than the ones shown in American gangster films. Still, it’s an fun experience to compare and contrast these cultures.
To me, Outrage wasn’t disappointing, but it wasn’t quite exactly what I wanted either. The speed of the movie is relentless which causes some major problems in its storytelling, but the entire picture that it paints is really cool. There is no real main character to speak of. One may argue that Kitano’s character is the main character, but not all of the action really focuses around him. It’s more of a conglomeration of many different characters and how their motives clash and cause violence to erupt in a wonderfully bloody fashion. Definitely give this movie a watch. I know I’ll watch it again. I still can’t put this on a list of best gangster movies, and I can’t even call it great. It’s a respectable film, nonetheless.