Tag Archives: brutality

Outrage – Review

25 Apr

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Review

2 Jul

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a long, meticulous, and thrilling novel written by Stieg Larsson filled with incredible characters and twists. Thankfully, the film is given proper justice by film maker extraordinaire, David Fincher, who is responsible for films such as Fight Club, Se7en, and, more recently, The Social Network. Now, this isn’t going to be a comparison between the book and the movie, nor is it of the Swedish and the American film. Instead, I will solely be talking about where this film works wonderfully and the areas of small imperfections.

For Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), life as a journalist may very well be over after being accused of libel by a multi-billionaire. Despite these claims, an old CEO, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), hires Mikael to solve a forty year old mystery concerning the disappearance, and possible murder, of his grandniece, Harriet. Blomkvist is not alone in his investigation, however. Enter Lisbeth Salander, an anti-social hacker savant with a disturbing past, present, and possible future. Together, these two investigators get mixed up in a decades old Vanger family drama that seems impossibly twisted, yet all too real.

This right here is a bold movie. It seems obvious that Fincher didn’t care if people were put off by the disturbing scenes and violence because he had a vision of the story and he was going to tell it the way that he wanted to. I have to respect that. There are so many movies now that are dimmed down in order to appeal to more people. This is not one of those films. In fact, there is one scene in particular that will leave the viewer deeply disturbed for days to come. Kudos to you Fincher and company.

So, yes, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a brutal movie, but make no mistake, it isn’t brutal for no reason. The original novel and now this movie has a particular message that it is trying to get across, and using the unrestrained nature of its violence the message is not only gotten across, but hurled at your face. That being said it is a message about the evils performed against women. Stieg Larsson’s original title for his story was actually “Men Who Hate Women”, which I think is even better than the title now. It’s a difficult truth to accept.

But what about how the film looked? Well, like everything Fincher has ever done, it looks phenomenal. The sets are all perfect, and Hedeby Island is really something to behold in the winter. The movie does a great job at making you feel the scene, which means it really feels cold when its winter and spring really brings warmer relief. This may sound weird, but you have to see the movie to really get what I’m talking about.

Every actor does a great job in this movie, but there is a star making performance here by the now great Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. This is such a difficult, layered character that an actress has to pull her off just right for it to work and Mara plays the troubled hacker to perfection.

One small complaint that I have is part of  the way that the mystery is unravelled. While reading the book, it’s easy to follow what the characters are doing because it is written out for you. In the movie, you have to watch very closely. A lot of the story involves looking at pictures, investigating websites, and reading emails. I have to admit, making a movie like that and keeping the viewer invested in the mystery is no easy task, and Fincher pulls it off, but it was still hard to really understand what the characters were doing at some points.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is truly an exceptional piece of film making that should go down as a classic. There are very little flaws to be seen here, and that is a rare thing with a story as complex and contrived as this. This film is a slow burn, but the outcome and the characters make the entire two and a half hours worth it. If you haven’t seen this one, go and see it.