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Original Title:

Japan 2010

Crime, Thriller

Takeshi Kitano

Takeshi Kitano
Kippei Shiina
Ryo Kase
Jun Kunimura
Tomokazu Miura
Takashi Tsukamoto
Hideo Nakano
Renji Ishibashi
Fumiyo Kohinata
Soichiro Kitamura

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Story: The Sanno-kai yakuza are a powerful organization with a handful of subordinate clans. The boss of the yakuza, Sekuichi (Soichiro Kitamura), wants Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura) to take over Murase's (Renji Ishibashi) clan with the help of his own clan. However, Ikemoto and Murase are sworn blood brothers, so Ikemoto gives his subordinate Otomo (Takeshi Kitano) the task to force Murase out of business. With his people Otomo actually succeeds in shattering the yakuza-clan of Murase, but soon after that the different fronts aren't that easy to locate anymore. Ikemoto more and more indulges in gambling and his right hand Ozawa (Tetta Sugimoto) seems to have made his own arrangement with the yakuza boss. The corrupt detective Kataoka (Fumiyo Kohinata) on the other hand, who knows Otomo for many years, seemingly sells his loyalty to those who pay him the best. The scheming of the yakuza boss becomes more convoluted as things evolve and apparently everyone wants to bring down the other in order to get a personal gain out of it. The generally loyal yakuza Otomo now has to ask himself where his loyalty really lies and if the person that has his trust maybe isn't actually interested in getting him out of the game as well.

Review: Takeshi Kitano should be a name many are familiar with, maybe not as much as a comedian as in his home country, but as a director and actor of such movies like "Hana-bi" or "Sonatine". Kitano's strength most of all lies in his scripts and his genuine directing. "Outrage" means a return of the exceptional director to the yakuza genre after some different projects like "Achilles and the Tortoise". According to his own words he simply wanted to bring an entertaining movie to the screen and he is quite aware that he has a special talent for stories like these. In fact, Kitano once again proves to have extraordinary skills when it comes to weaving a story. The plot of the film is complex and deals with subjects like loyalty and the question if there actually is such a thing in modern yakuza organisations. Secret pacts and promises made show that in the end it is all about power and money. Doesn't this sound familiar? Yes, even though there have already been other noteworthy works of the genre the movie strongly reminds us of Johnnie To's revenge two-parter "Election". The flaws of Kitano's work lie in the characters, too, but as a whole the film seems a lot more coherent and most of all more entertaining than To's two-parter.

Kitano's meditative way of directing a movie is very distinctive and especially at the beginning creates a notable atmosphere. The power of the yakuza clan boss, that is visible under a surface of respect towards each other, is apparent in every picture and radiates a hazardous aura of dangerousness. The quiet pictures are, as typical for Kitano, disrupted by sudden bursts of violence. These are moments when we get to understand that behind the facade of honor and loyalty is nothing more than power-hungry criminals in suits. Maybe they really retain a little bit of honor as they don't want to change into monsters completely, but this is exactly what remains questionable since the director wanted to touch topics like these and make you think about them. Unfortunately, he doesn't do such a good job as he used to, because there certainly is one big flaw in "Outrage": the characters all remain two-dimensional caricatures of yakuza gang members. No one of them really shows any emotions and so it remains impossible for the audience to get into any of them.

Considering the enormous amount of individuals in the film it most likely would have been impossible to bestow an adequate background story on every one of them, but at least one attachment figure would have been great. As it is, the film jumps from one character to the other - whereas it never feels torn apart on a positive note, but always puts its focus on the yakuza as a whole - and we don't care about any of the fates waiting for them. That's even the more sad as naturally not everyone is going to get a happy ending and "Outrage" could have had good potential to work in drama and character depth as well. This way the movie also lacks a real message. Because what we get here on the surface is nothing we haven't seen in other yakuza/triad flicks already and especially coming from Kitano we would have expected that he shows the contrast of extreme violence and humanism in contemplative pictures. But that's where the movie fails.

Kitano allegedly said that he started about thinking of the different deaths of the individual characters when he started writing the script. Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that at least one of them is whacked in an extremely original way. However, as already said we don't care about the different individuals living or dying. Every one of them has his own selfish interests and no one of them is considerate of anyone else. Even the detective in the movie is corrupt. Thus, it's even more surprising that "Outrage" can build up a certain kind of tension. The story offers enough twists, the political strategizing of the different parties is fascinating and the ruthlessness some of the characters fates are decided with is also captivating. Actually, there is always happening something and because of the big amount of characters the viewer's undivided attention is demanded as well. However, if you are attentive then it's amazingly easy to keep track of the events. The chain reaction a misunderstanding and violence is setting off carries the whole movie and the fascination for the consequences unfolding can win us over all the way to the end.

The yakuza organisation soon seems to be like a house of cards that is collapsing. The deck of cards is shuffled anew and of course everyone wants to get the best hand. This, of course, leads to even more inner quarrels which in return shakes the newly rebuild house of cards again. This is thrilling and nice to watch, especially as the violence gets loosened up by Kitano's typical deadpan humor, but nevertheless, despite the beautiful pictures we miss the substance that normally makes Kitano's movies stand out. The story isn't really original and a message isn't carried by it either. The ending even proves to be a rather awkward epilogue. All of this makes "Outrage" lack that special something that normally characterize Kitano's works and we have to ask ourselves why he didn't make his characters more colorful since the script itself is really well-written. On the other hand "Outrage" is more entertaining than most of Kitano's other works. Maybe Kitano is taking some of the criticism to heart in his sequel that is already in pre-production. In the end, "Outrage" is still recommendable as a yakuza flick, anyway.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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