Nov 14, 2011

Outrage (2010)
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writers: Takeshi Kitano
Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina and Jun Kunimura

The Plot: The plot for Outrage concerns a struggle for power amongst Tokyo’s yakuza clans. Although today the yakuza have a slightly more business-friendly face, Outrage shows that the Japanese mafia still knows how to get their hands dirty. The story begins with a warning traveling down the yakuza hierarchy, starting from the main boss Sekiuchi (Soichiro Kitamura) and then coming to his main lieutenant Kato (Tomokazu Miura), and then he finally directs it to the man that the warning was initially made for: Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura), a lower boss within the family. It seems that Ikemoto has ties with the Murase crime family, due to the two gangster bosses swearing an oath to one another while in jail, but this friendship outside of the family doesn’t sit well with the higher ups. Knowing that trouble will surely brew if he doesn’t make a move, Ikemoto orders his right-hand man Otomo (Takeshi Kitano) to take a crew and open up a office on the Murase families main turf. This is seen as a less offensive way to send a message back to the bosses, but this small message then spirals into a full-on yakuza bloodbath.

The Review
Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage may be the most “gangster” film that the director has ever made. Easily combining every potential combination of macho bravado that has ever been seen in any of his tales of cops and robbers, Outrage could very well be seen as Kitano completely pandering to his audience. Within recent years, the director has stepped out and made more wildly experimental films than at any other point in his varied career. Dolls was a bizarre, yet stylish, look at love and longing, but it was told without any form of realistic logic. Then there was the incomprehensible Takeshis which nearly ended my own personal love affair with the filmmaker’s work. Outrage has been touted as a return to form, where the popular comedian returns to what he is best known for: criminal violence. He cut his teeth as a director on projects such as Violent Cop, Sonatine and Hana-bi, and all were films that portrayed a slightly darker view of morality. Outrage is a much more procedural film than anything he has ever done. However, this is not a documentary style crime film. The best way to describe it would be Tony Montana-esque in its portrayal of modern crime, but desaturated in both its look and emotion. Packed with more bloodshed than all of his previous films combined, Outrage is certain to push a few buttons.

The positive attributes for having this be the most “gangster” film of Kitano’s career are obvious: it is incredibly cool. Filled to the brim with ferocious violence and machismo, Kitano lets himself run loose inside the world of the Yakuza in a fashion that doesn’t seem to acknowledge reality. After seeing this film, one would imagine the Yakuza of Japan racking up more bloodshed than the Bloods and Crips during the early nineties. At all times, characters seem as if they are posing for the camera instead of legitimately emoting. The male cast ups their masculinity to a level that leaves the earth’s stratosphere. This sometimes comes across as being over-the-top, and a bit silly, but for the most part Kitano manages to deliver on the “hip” factor whilst pandering to his audience. Pandering is a dirty word, I realize, but you can hardly say he is doing much else. Indeed, this seems like the sort of film that a teenager imagines when trying to conjure up visions of the most violent and macho crime film ever made. Sure, it doesn’t reach levels of outright goriness, but human life is shown as fickle throughout, and Kitano even becomes elaborate in his forms of torture and death. Expect to see dentist tools used in exceptionally brutal ways, as well as a near-decapitation sequence that has to be seen to be believed. The ferocity of Outrage jumps off the screen right from its start, and it never dares to relent.

The film embellishes on the enormous violence of the yakuza, and does not attempt to give much more in terms of depth or meaning. This isn’t the Kitano of old, where violence came from out of the dark within a moment’s notice. Outrage portrays its violence in a very methodical way, filling the film with a sense of oncoming tragedy right from its very start. Even when violence isn’t crashing down on our protagonists, the film is establishing reasoning for eventual violence. Death and bloodshed seem inevitable within this world that Kitano has crafted, and although the subject matter is similar to what he has done before, the execution is done in a much different way. Previously Kitano used violence as a means to show the fragility of life and the sudden impact that one moment can have (such as the firing of a bullet), but gone is that sense of existential dread that made the director a known figure in world cinema. Instead, he focuses on a much more procedural story that looks to examine the changes in organized crime. Similar titles to this would be the Italian crime film Gomorrah, or even the works of Johnnie To. In particular, Outrage plays out like a much more violent take on To’s Election series.

Maybe the clue to Kitano’s intentions are right in the title. Maybe the inevitable goal was to create outrage amongst those who might be offended. Maybe Kitano set his film into hyperdrive for the sole reason of giving the audience an overdose on everything that they think they want. Kitano’s story is terribly conventional by his standards. The story establishes warring factions who only serve the purpose of showcasing many scenes of violence and style. The few clues that we have in finding further depth within the story seems to be in the character of Otomo, played by Kitano. He is a character who is out of place within the yakuza element, due to his old-fashioned views of honor. This new yakuza that the film introduces, seems only focused on greed and victory. Towards the end of the film Otomo has only one scene that punctuates the aura of “bravado” that encompasses all of the main cast, where he all but admits that that times have changed. This is one of the few hints that I found where Kitano seemed to have something legitimate to say. Perhaps, coming off of the critical lambasting that his recent films have had for their experimentation, Kitano too feels as if his touches of sentimentality have left him out of touch with an audience that simply demands more gangster films. Outrage then plays out as both as a ruthlessly “gangster” tale, but also a sarcastic and biting answer to his most prevalent critics. If sources are correct, it seems that Kitano made the film with the intentions of creating something entirely financially viable. He even crafted the death scenes well before the actual story was ever put into place, which seems to compliment the theory that the film is ultimately a satirical answer to his most ruthless critics.

The Conclusion
When I think about the reasons that I like Outrage, I think about the moments that seem to resemble Kitano at his best. The stark characters, the very static camera movement on beautiful scenery, and the ambivalent coolness of the characters, all of this can be found in Outrage at various point. The overall goal of the film is a bit shrouded to me as a viewer, but I enjoyed the ride. Whether or not the supposed Outrage 2, that was hinted at during the credits, actually comes into fruition or is actually just another joke at the expense of a blood-thirsty audience, I do not know. Regardless, no matter what Kitano does next, I am once again excited to see this man’s work.

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