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#39: Outrage - Review

Outrage film banner / poster

A misunderstanding begets bloodshed, and so the world turns in a Takashi Kitano gangster film. It may be an impossible task trying to decode the plot from this exercise in bloodletting, and in fact I have a feeling Kitano wants it that way. I could tell you the basics, that there are two feuding yakuza families that are instructed to kill each other over what was essentially a misunderstanding at a strip club, but I promise you it does not matter.

What does matter is Kitano’s new genre film Outrage has a point, it wants you to walk away feeling something. I am just not sure what the feeling is supposed to be. With an influx of attention over the passed decade thanks to overseas releases of films he has directed and starred, Kitano has come out with a movie that seems to be laughing at anyone who dares to enjoy it. Feeling more like a satire of the ultraviolent Japanese and Chinese gangster films that have flooded American shores of the last decade, Outrage cynically paints its yakuza tropes by the numbers. We are provided the banal yakuza gang, strapped with samurai swords and automatic weapons, dressed in the same black suit and tie ensemble seen in every gangster film since Tarantino took over.Outrage poster

Outrage’s plot is more of a means to an end. It provides Kitano with enough structure to facilitate his main ambition, mutilation. When an opposing family blackmails a horny yakuza clan member for $600,000 yen, apologies must be made. Kitano it seems only accepts body parts in exchange for forgiveness. The guilty clan member of the opposing family must offer his finger to the offended mob boss. There is no pan of the camera, Kitano wants us to look because he knows deep down, the audience wants to watch. Offered only a dull box cutter, the poor gangster punishingly pushes the weak blade deeper into his flesh until the finger is completely separated.

Darrell Williams Davis breaks down the violent genre in a more traditional sense in his article Japan: Cause for (Cautious) Optimism. In the essay, Davis describes yakuza pictures to all be invariably structured the same, even comparing them to classic American genre films, “Like westerns, yakuza pictures are ‘rationalized,’ with their standard moments of ‘return,’ ‘identification,’ and naturally ‘revenge”(201cac). So, if a genre can become as structured and rote as the yakuza genre has in the last 20-years, it is easier to understand Kitano’s position. The genre that made him famous, that he made famous, has been diluted into a sopping puddle of blood and clichés. How better to retaliate than removing the “rationalization,” and instead incorporate a convoluted mess of a plot. By eliminating the “rationalization” Kitano can build a film around the “return,” the “identification” and most importantly, the “revenge.” The revenge scenes in Outrage come quickly and fiercely. One gang member after another is sliced, diced, shot, or chopped in any number of delectably violent methods. In the more traditional yakuza films, “Climactic vendettas would be carried out after a series of escalating humiliations” (201cac). Outrage is built around escalating humiliations, both for the gangsters on screen and the audience. What I mean by that is Kitano gave fans the type of movie they really want. Not the classic yakuza picture that sticks to a samurai code of honor, but instead a film that focuses all on revenge. Is the audience intelligent enough to understand what they are watching is not a yakuza picture at all, but rather some exercise in maniacal breakdown?

After the fingers have been severed, and the teeth have been pulled out, all we are left with is a movie about nothing but torture. The experience is uninspired, recycled, and mostly dull, as dull as the box cutter employed in the first scene of mutilating excess. Sadly, everyone loses, the audience and Kitano included. Outrage could have been a satirical look into not only the genre, but fans of yakuza pictures as well. The film devolved into less philosophy about the nature of sociopathic behavior, and became a heartless killing machine, thoughtlessly punishing everyone involved. 


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Reader Comments (1)

Your reviews are great! I'm loving them!

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlexander Grant Taussig

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