Fantastic Review: Outrage

By  · Published on October 7th, 2010

Fantastic Review: Outrage

Otomo is an interesting gentleman. Though a high-ranking member of a revered yakuza family, his faction often finds themselves cleaning up messes and taking on the assignments no one else wants. In many ways, they are the designated foot soldiers for every major yakuza clan in Japan. But when doubling-dealing and conniving at the highest echelon mark his own clan for death, Otomo gets a bit angry. Much like the celebrated Hulk of Marvel lore, you wouldn’t like Otomo when he’s angry…unless you happen to be sitting in the audience and not actually bearing his wrath.

I loves me some Takeshi Kitano (alias Beat Takeshi). He makes the old school yakuza films that have always been my particular brand of sake. If he had been making films in the late 1960s, I have no doubt he would have been one of the top directors for Nikkatsu studios; another esoteric fetish of mine. But here again, Takeshi delivers and proves he is one of the best crime film craftsman in the world. As with the bulk of his cannon, Kitano not only directs but also plays the lead character. He brings his familiar stoicism and comedic disregard for human life to the role. The thing I have always loved about Beat Takeshi is his Jekyll and Hyde approach to being a gangster. In times of peace, he’s almost the elder statesmen of organized crime; soft-spoken and almost comically feeble. But if you dare cross him, his vengeance is truly the stuff of nightmares.

In Outrage, Takeshi’s surgical application of violence has not waned in the least with age. The brutality in this film reaches the severity of a horror film, but seems even more horrific juxtaposed against Takeshi’s utter apathy for the pieces of his enemies that he is savagely divorcing from their persons. I may never go to the dentist again for fear that a quiet, funny-looking little yakuza might reorganize the careful arrangement of molars and incisors in my mouth with the aide of a drill. Also, call it a cultural augury or just plain good advice, but never stick out your tongue at a Japanese gangster. It should be noted that none of this is meant to be taken as admonishment; far from it. Much of Outrage’s appeal is its celebratory, vicious, and artfully executed violence.

Outrage is not a yakuza film for those unacquainted with the genre. Like so many yakuza films, contemporary or classic, Outrage’s plot is about as easy to follow as a the path of a ricocheting bullet. Without sounding too much like an ignorant American, the characters are a bit difficult to keep sorted; mostly because of the expansive discussions about these sundry characters as they stealthily stab one another in the back. In other words, much of the references to these characters take place while they are off screen so as to make it impossible to connect name to antecedent face. It can be a bit laborious keeping all the mobsters straight and makes the third act a bit tedious. However, if you routinely watch yakuza films then you’ve probably already adapted the ability to filter out only the most crucial bits of info and follow them as they bounce around the screen; much like a tennis ball at Wimbledon.

All in all, a very bloody, very satisfying gangster flick from the ultimate master of the genre.

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.