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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Outrage: Latest Yakuza Film From Takeshi Kitano Not To Be Missed

Anyone who is a yakuza movie fan will love Outrage, the latest US release written and directed by Japan’s legendary Takeshi Kitano (The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, Brother, Violent Cop). Besides being a fine example of the ultra violent Japanese mafia genre, Outrage features the director, also acting on screen utilizing his trademarked, stone-faced personae to maximum effect. One only wishes there was more screen time with “Beat” Takeshi’s hardened veteran of the gangland world and less time spent on the many peripheral and less interesting characters. In fact, the one fault of the film is that there are too many other gangsters to keep track of. But in this tale of power struggles and petty vengeances, fans are likely not to notice. The true yakuza movie devotee will revel in the abundant number of revenge killings and inventive deaths as the full blown yakuza war leads to its inevitable end.

True to form of any crime organization, Outrage focuses on the constant struggle for power: who has it, who wants it, and who can get it. As expected, it is a ruthless battle as clan leaders all vie for the favor of the most powerful family in the Japanese underworld. These rival under bosses seek to rise through the ranks by scheming and making sworn allegiances, regardless of the legitimacy of their oaths. Betrayal is constant and vengeance expected, as the never-ending struggle plays on to see who ends up on top. However, in this corrupt world there are no heroes, just a whole bunch of bad guys spiraling out of control until the struggle for power becomes one of mere survival with very few winners.

Rated R for violence, language, and brief sexuality, Outrage is presented in Japanese with English subtitles, but don’t let that dissuade you from seeing this powerhouse piece of cinema. The film has already played to great acclaim at the AFI and Cannes Film Festivals in 2010 and the Palm Springs International Film Festival this year. Along its celebrated run it has caught the attention of such critics as Maggie Lee of the Hollywood Reporter, who exclaimed that Outrage “bursts with direct cinematic power”… with, “humor as mean and dry as a straight-up martini”. And Rob Nelson at Variety called Outrage, “visually stunning. A beautifully staged marvel that confidently reasserts [director] Kitano’s considerable cinematic gifts”. I’d have to go along with those assessments, especially the one about the humor, which at times is so dry you’ll wonder if you really should be laughing or not.

Although the film may be a challenge to those unfamiliar with the yakuza style of movie or the director, I can’t emphasize enough how well Takeshi serves the genre. I first discovered his work when I saw an earlier film of his, Fireworks, at a film festival in 1998. I remember I was blown away with the amount of information Takeshi was able to convey with such straightforward performances and carefully crafted shots, utilizing very little movement from either the camera or the actors. There was clarity of intention present in every frame. After seeing Outrage, I was pleased to see that this ability has not waned over the years and I enjoyed the film for what it is and intended to be – a solid yakuza film. With that in mind, I am sure you will not be disappointed.

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