Outrage (Takeshi Kitano, 2011)
Takeshi Kitano returns to the ‘yakuza’ genre but removes his customary integration of emotive and poetic beauty, this time focusing on an uncomplicated gangster film. The chairman of the Sanno-kai yakuza syndicate suspects one of the family’s lieutenants, Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura), of forming an alliance with an ‘outsider’ gang, Murase (Renji Ishibashi). Ikemoto is subsequently ordered to bring Murase’s gang into line, to which he assigns Otomo (Takeshi Kitano) to take care of the ‘dirty’ work. Betrayal, corruption and assassination ensue as a minor confrontation results in a full scale gang war.
The plot isn’t anything special and therefore relies on its performances, and this is one of Outrage’s strengths. The lead actors are perfectly cast and execute the well-written script skilfully. Kippei Shiina plays Otomo’s right-hand man, Mizuno, menacingly and with purpose. Meanwhile, the suave and youthful performance of Ryo Kase, as Ishihara, is smart and refreshing in a cast of predominantly stern middle-aged men. Takeshi Kitano’s own acting never strays away from his usual shifts of serenity and then brutality, which suits his character and remains appropriate within the context of the film. The production values are top notch with a smart and stylish look that shows the lavish yet darker side of Tokyo. The cinematography is also sharp with a seamless use of wide-angle and close-up camera shots enhancing tense confrontations. Yoshinori Ohta’s editing combines well with the stunning audio design, resulting in a great sounding and visually pleasing film. Still, it is one that suffers from a lot of problems.
The big drawback with Outrage is its sense of emptiness. Everything feels clinical, lacking the gritty immersion and depth that you expect from the subject matter. The ‘internal power struggle’ plot is the standard narrative of any gangster film, and here it doesn’t bring anything original or unique to the genre. The result is a pretty straightforward premise that becomes far too predictable. While the story portrays the interesting etiquette and protocol of the infamous yakuza, it fails to capture anything beyond that. Ironically, Kitano started writing the screenplay by inventing ways in which his characters would be killed, and it shows. In previous films such as Hana-bi, he would used violence to create sudden shocking moments that would contrast with the tranquil poetic nature. However unlike the constructed balance and visual elegance of those films, Outrage constantly tries to 1-up the last disturbing scene, making the violence seem forced. This is one of Takeshi Kitano’s most ‘mainstream’ works and it’s an entertaining watch. His standard hallmarks of dark humour and violence remain, but it unfortunately all becomes very shallow and somewhat lacking conviction.
StudioCanal’s release of Outrage is stingy on the extras front, which is a regular downside of many international film releases. The only inclusion is a ‘Making Of’ documentary that contains various interviews with the cast and crew – these are mildly interesting but nothing remarkable.