Outrage (2010)

Director:  Takeshi Kitano
Cast:  Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase
Plot:  Kato orders Ikemoto to bring the unassociated Murase-gumi gang in line, and he immediately passes the task on to his subordinate Otomo, who runs his own crew.  The tricky jobs that no-one wants to do always end up in Otomo's lap.

Genre:  Crime / Drama
Awards:  Nom. for Palme d'Or (Cannes).
Runtime:  109min
Rating:  M18 for violence, language and brief sexuality.

Takeshi Kitano directs, edits, and stars in his new film Outrage, a crime drama about the Yakuza, traditional organized crime syndicates that rule the drug underworld in Japan.  Featuring a cast of mostly old men dressed in smart black suits that conceal their signature elaborate body tattoos, Kitano’s film is a well-worn story of loyalty and betrayal framed in a contemporary setting. 

When violence begets violence, rival families are forced to take extreme measures to ensure their survival, in ways that the exertion of dominance in power relations by force, or otherwise, are only bound to fail.

Many of us who are familiar with gangster pictures would probably recognize the trajectory of Outrage’s narrative.  The rise and fall of members of the Yakuza serve as a context for Kitano to indulge in extreme violence.  There is not so much of an interesting story here; in fact, it is quite predictable. 

The characters are also not fleshed out to their fullest, and when they die, and almost all of them do (come on, this is the Yakuza), there is no reason to show sympathetic concern.  Even Kitano’s character, whom we are supposed to identity and anchor our support to, somewhat takes a backseat in this film.

Even with a relatively weak narrative, Outrage’s sustainability of viewers’ interest is impressive, that is, if you are a fan of torture and gore.  Kitano’s take is different from what you would see in an American- produced slasher/torture porn movie such as Hostel or the 'Saw' series.  

Here, torture is spontaneous and borne out of the immediacy of the uncontrollable human emotion called rage.  Of course, this is not exclusive to Yakuza culture, but is inherent in all of us and exhibited in varying degrees.

Kitano treats “Yakuza rage” as a hilarious subject, depicting their behavior as irrationally clownish.  We recognize that a cut finger is not torture anymore but a symbolistic cultural representation of the Yakuza tradition of expressing remorse.  

But when we watch instances of violence not stereotyped as Yakuza-esque, they become unrecognizable acts of brutal torture.  And there are many examples in the film, with some of them taking on a very comical slant.  I shall not describe any examples because their unpredictability is the reason for their visual staying power.

Kitano’s direction is generally excellent, establishing his shots with more clarity than usual, while achieving a consistent tone throughout that can be felt as pseudo-serious.  The story may not keep viewers excited, and there may be far too many characters to invest our interest in. 

However, the action keeps us engrossed.  By action, I don’t mean action sequences (of which in its purest sense, the film has none), but rather the Yakuza’s ultra-violent (re)action to circumstances that happen in the film’s narrative arc.

Outrage is not a must-watch Kitano film, but it would certainly appeal to the mainstream audience who enjoy violent films about gangsters.


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