UK Release date: Out now
Director: Kitano Takeshi
Starring: Kitano Takeshi, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Miura Tomokazu, Kunimura Jun
Running time: 109 mins
Reviewer: Adam Wing
Well, it’s about time. Kitano Takeshi is a complex individual it would seem, but with Outrage we are taken back to a time where life was much simpler. Not to mention a whole lot bloodier. You’d be forgiven for thinking he had fallen off the face of the planet, after a trilogy of films that dealt not with gangster warfare, but with his own artistic integrity. In truth, Takeshis’, Achilles and the Tortoise and Glory to the Filmmaker! struggled to find an audience on both sides of the water.
They are deeply personal films blessed with the offbeat eccentricities of their guiding light, but you have to go all the way back to 2003 to witness Kitano at the height of his power. It was the 1990’s that saw Kitano deliver his finest work, with films like Boiling Point, Violent Cop and Sonatine pushing the boundaries of a stagnant gangster genre. With Outrage, he returns to the genre that established his name and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Joining Kitano this time out are Shiina Kippei (Shinobi), Miura Tomokazu (Adrift in Tokyo), Kunimura Jun (Blood and Bones) and Kase Ryo (Letters From Iwo Jima). Takeshi takes a relatively harmless encounter and blows it up out of all proportion, along with most of the films characters I might add. In a casual conversation at a banquet - there’s a lot of deliberating in this movie - the Sanno-kai crime group chairman (Kitamura Soichiro) expresses to right-hand man Kato (Miura Tomokazu) his displeasure for the Ikemoto clan's connection to the Murase crew.
He suspects that Ikemoto has struck a forbidden alliance with the rival gangster. Ikemoto makes a move against Murase, which kicks off a chain of events that leaves a trail of blood and bodies on every sidewalk. The battle for supremacy takes centre stage, in an ultra-violent world awash with bad guys fighting for power and money. Watch your back folks, Kitano Takeshi is back in town and he’s dancing to the ‘Beat’ of an old drum, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Takeshi’s gangster movies have always taken the same approach, and with Outrage we’re invited to witness a comfortable return to past glories. There’s nothing that we haven’t seen before, but for many that will be just the ticket. Takeshi’s sombre delivery is punctuated by random bursts of violence and lots of them. Dental work, cinderblocks, chopsticks and the obligatory severed fingers take centre stage, overwhelming the senses with ruthless efficiency.
Allegedly, Takeshi built the film around a series of brutal encounters, and there’s more than enough evidence to back that statement up. The plot is relatively straightforward and rarely does it break the mould, the only confusion occurs when trying to work out which character belongs to what family. There are so many minor players it’s hard to keep up, and in the end you just have to go with it, revelling in the chaos as the rhyme and reason takes a backseat to finely tuned torture.
One of the subplots involving an African diplomat feels like it belongs in another movie and the wide-eyed theatrics grate in no time at all. Thankfully, Takeshi drops this undesirable misstep before the films conclusion, returning to his roots in order to deliver a master class of exhilarating action, pulse pounding violence and brotherly brutality. The final moments are the film’s most intoxicating, and the promise of a sequel is met with an enthusiasm I've not felt for Takeshi in years.
Outrage could never be considered his finest hour, maybe he’s saving that for part two, but Takeshi has come home to a cinematic audience waiting with bated breath and open arms. Some will come away disappointed by the familiarity of it all, we have been waiting for over a decade and the evidence at hand is hardly ground-breaking, but what Takeshi lacks in originality he makes up for in style, black humour and charismatic cool. Welcome back Takeshi, don’t leave it so long next time.