Written and Directed by Takeshi Kitano
Few comedians have risen to the level of fame that “Beat” Takeshi Kitano have in Japan. Even fewer used that fame to slowly assimilate into the world of yakuza films, but Kitano has done both, and done it seamlessly. After his past popular yakuza films like Fireworks, Violent Cop, and Brother, he has taken a break the past few years to do more personal films like Takeshis, a surrealist trip through the mind of Kitano.
With his latest film, the appropriately titled Outrage, he is back as a villainous, but respectable yakuza. Through an intricate series of events, set off by the man who controls all the yakuza, Otomo (Kitano) is given a series of tasks to take care of for his family. The only trouble is, other rival yakuza families are instructed to do the same things for their families, against Otomo’s family.
The spins and twists of the plot are the most fun to watch, as you never know who will get killed, or why, but when it comes, it’s an explosion of passionate violence, and more importantly, it is directly correlated to the story being told. Often in Hollywood, villains are shot just to up the on-screen violence, here, it is to show the loss and the lengths these men will go to in matters of honor and respect, and keeping up the name of a certain family that has long held power.
Kitano has gotten criticism in the past for making exceedingly violent films, but until this film, I didn’t think any were excessively violent. Not that Outrage is excessively violent in a bad way. But like a Takashi Miike film, it is quite violent, and it has a lot of strange mutilations and shocking shootings because of the casual way with which the violence is approached. Once everything breaks down into an all out war, the characters understand that this is what they chose when they became yakuza.
In the meantime, there are the anomalies that no one can account for, and these small instances of bad luck and mis-communication lead to some pretty drastic actions. Many of Kitano’s films are slow and meditative, and while some people may find Outrage a bit slower paced (especially in comparison with some similar Korean films) it’s still Kitano’s most thrilling film to date, and the labyrinthine plot pays off to satisfying, yet unpredictable conclusions.
Some may still prefer his earlier works, but I dare say Outrage is his best film to date, and I welcome his return to the yakuza genre with open arms. At the same time, I realize this may be the start of another long break from the genre for the director, but only time will tell. In the meantime, Outrage is available On Demand through most cable/dish outlets, Amazon.com, and iTunes via Magnolia Pictures. It is currently playing in select cities on the big screen if you want to check it out, find your local listings.