Cannes Movie Review: Outrage (2010)

Takeshi Kitano in Outrage

Photo: Celluloid Dreams

Director Tikashi Kitano’s Outrage exists in an effort to explore the various amounts of violence that can be dispensed in the midst of a yakuza turf war in the Japanese underworld. With an overwhelming measure of inventive kills, Outrage invites its audience to the slaughter with a story in which cooler heads prevail, but it isn’t really much more than that. I laughed with and enjoyed this film, but it didn’t strike me as any kind of overwhelming achievement.

Territorial war begins with a minor offense and a suggestion of power as boss Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura) is warned of his potentially damaging relationship with boss Murase (Renji Ishibashi). To show his allegiance to yakuza top dog, “Mr. Chairman,” Ikemoto sicks Otomo (Kitano) on Murase’s family, an order that will carry lasting consequences. Payback and revenge become the order of the day and the control of Ikemoto and Murase’s territory is up for grabs and several of the players involved have their eye on it.

In the press notes, Kitano says “he [has] never and will never shoot violence as if it’s some kind of action videogame.” His goal is for the audience to feel the pain and it’s the one aspect of Outrage he nails. The story is here to service the violence, which can be particularly entertaining and result in some of the film’s funnier as well as more tragic moments.

While shooting for pain and realism, the violence in Outrage also carries a certain amount of levity, primarily thanks to the straight-faced approach of Otomo who dishes out some of the more impressive punishments. This can include the loss of fingers, a particularly tasty tongue moment and a bloody visit to the dentist’s office resulting in perhaps the funniest exchange of the movie shortly thereafter.

Fans of Kitano are not at all surprised by anything I’ve written. His films have been dolling out punishment for as long as he’s been making them. However, my experience with his work is rather limited including only his most well known feature Zatoichi and Sonatine, but even with only two films under my belt I knew what to expect in terms of violence and on that front Outrage delivers while falling short in terms of a cohesive narrative.

The story just trots along with little concern for natural progression. A well-designed timeline is nonexistent, which makes for the tracking of the yakuza’s criminal services from escort services, to drugs, to stocks a bit silly since that’s a story to be told over about 20 years rather than the two weeks or so this film seems to cover. Of course, this hardly matters, since the only concern is getting to the next violent scene, but it does make for a missed opportunity with a plot detail that never seems to matter as much as it simply exists to fill a little time and occasionally serve as exposition.

Kitano puts in decent work as director and is even better as an actor, playing the stone-faced killer Otomo. Ishibashi’a performance is also top notch as the eccentric boss Murase. The rest of the cast is well positioned, but none of them carry personalities on a level matching Otomo or Murase, though Jun Kunimura’s performance as the chicken shit boss Ikemoto does still remain in my memory banks.

Outrage is likely to get picked up by a domestic small-time distributor. I wouldn’t be surprised to see The Weinstein Co. seek it out (although that would probably lead to a direct-to-DVD release) or even more likely is a Magnolia pick-up. The film will some day enjoy some play stateside, but how much is really the big question.



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