Feb 2, 2011


Takeshi "Beat" Kitano returns to sleeved form with Outrage, yet another pivotal outing of Yakuza bloodlines.  This excursion into the oft-darkly comic world of shifty kinship is led by Kitano but sustained by the many other incredible characters, although variably disturbed, as a simple gesture of severing an allegiance with a drug dealing family goes far beyond the intended effect. Not at all like his debut feature Violent Cop, Outrage is the latest stasis of his cinematic evolution which seems to barrage with exquisite examples of "cops  & robbers" till you feel the jarring sensation of whiplash. As per Kitano's motif in his more serious and gritty performances, occasionally both lead star and director, Kitano constantly explores many cinematic caverns of critical violence, always consequential. Never does something at all superfluous happen just for the sake of entertainment. Kitano's films have been, for me, a test of cinematic endurance. His films are much harder to stomach than most of any in a similar degree of story, from the curdling climax of Violent Cop to the systematic execution of many a friend within Outrage. Again, this answered calling is unforgettable as it is a film that allows you time to digest what you had just witnessed. At first I was unsure of exactly how much I enjoyed Outrage but it was only a couple days later that I realized I couldn't shake this film from my head, and neither will you.

No incendiary take on a criminal underworld would be complete without the superimposed head mafioso character. In the Japanese culture, this position is filled by the family boss or sometimes known as chairman. In Outrage, our chairman is a strange looking fellow whose thick cheeks almost bring to mind Kim Jong-il. His prime involvement is what Outrage focuses on - the cause and effect coupled with his issuing of orders. Much of Outrage is dizzying as clans are being turned on each other and no one is safe from the quite literal backstabbers. The only fault I call on Outrage isn't a fault of the film's as it was an interference on my behalf. Since my induction into Eastern films many years ago, I've slowly become accustomed to the behavioral traits, language patterns, the nationality of characters in writing, and even being able to distinguish nationality from appearance. That is, until I viewed Outrage. Once the narrative of Outrage reached a boil, the names and faces of the many characters along for the journey began spinning and trading faces and alliances, even identities. Granted, being overwhelmed by a film is truly an awe-inspiring act but Outrage had an entirely foreign effect. It took hold up until the hour mark. It is then that I finally had a grip on the characters. Having since toed the line of Kitano's impressive body of work, Outrage has greatly inspired me to to delve deeper into his world of theatrical treachery. With examples such as Outrage and Violent Cop (Hana-Bi, up next for me), it's clear that these can only be the works of a stark visionary - a man known for being both a quipster and cinematic nihilist. 

A fine trait of Kitano's is his ability and often persistence to manipulate both the camera and production of the film as well as his character. Kitano is a director who knows exactly he wants from his actors and instead of relying on an unknown to lead an artistic vessel often blindsided by inexperience, he lends his divine acting chops to portray characters personalized by himself. A wild scene brought immediately to mind is the soon-to-be infamous dental reworking scene in which Kitano steps the competition of retaliation up several notches. This scene in particular also happens to be one of the few scenes I've seen in a while that offers an excruciating peek into torture, albeit fresh and vivid with the sick sounds of twisting, tearing flesh against teeth and bone. The small portions of savagery within Outrage are always surprising and visceral, never redundant or seemingly stapled on. For a new breed of Kitano, the flourishing technological culture of Japan is quite evident as Outrage is simply gorgeous, from the smooth, organized asphalt of city streets to Kitano's threads teeming with textures you can practically taste.

More importantly, Outrage itself isn't a slow orbit around a single character. No, many clans feature characters as important and progressive to the film itself. Kitano's character, Ôtomo, isn't the only soul whose actions turn the escalated cascade of violence into a raging rapids, leaving many, many dead in scenes that would normally fall into a category of a mental body count but instead wind up tragic and unfortunate. As much as Ôtomo would despise his current standing, being a pawn of the chairman's wicked ways, the fellow hasn't a choice but to play the game until the subtle climax. The kaleidoscopic cast makes up the grand picture of Outrage, a film so busy with actions and reactions that you'd anticipate utter failure but as Kitano has shown, dominates a modestly timed gangster epic. Outrage simply distinguishes consequential karma out of a genre that has until recently been reserved for silly shoot outs and characters not worth a damn. No one is safe from the judgment of a bullet, not acquaintances or even brothers. We certainly aren't safe, that's for sure.



Anonymous said...

Great, I am glad there's a new Kitano film! It's been years, easily 10. Don't forget to check out Sonatine, one of his best.

Soiled Sinema said...

I just took your recommendation to watch Sonatine . . . only to discover it was dubbed in Italian. So it will be a couple of days before I'll get to that one. So I opted for Hana-bi instead.