Film review: Outrage (MFF 2011)

Bandai Visual, TV Tokyo, Omnibus Japan, Office Kitano

STARRING Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shina, Ryo Kase, Tomokazu Miura, Jun Kunimura, Renji Ishibashi, Tetta Sugimoto
WRITTEN BY Takeshi Kitano
PRODUCED BY Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshia, Yoshinori Takeda
DIRECTED BY Takeshi Kitano

SHOT BY Katsumi Yanagijima
MUSIC BY Keiichi Suzuki
EDITED BY Takeshi Kitano, Yoshinori Ota
DISTRIBUTED BY Office Kitano, Warner Bros.

Screened at the 2011 Milwaukee Film Festival

A series of escalating insults between rival yakuza groups snowballs into all-out war in this very straight and occasionally horrendous genre flick, a knowing throwback for Kitano (though somehow Outrage 2 is already coming). Can’t say I know intimately Kitano’s lengthy and varied career; I only vaguely recall 2003’s Zatoichi and with more clarity call to mind his dopey-grinned, Engrish utterance to Mr. Lawrence. I’m not sure if austerity is the word, but there’s something akin to it in Kitano’s mise-en-scene – but considering how Kitano holds my attention, I’d sooner guess that his proficiency is a result of his veteran status than his narrative mastery. He strikes me as a man who’d do well to direct a film written by somebody else.

There’s little sense in making a 120 minute, casually paced, traditional gangster film if the result yields no innovations to the collective soup – and this is a genre that Kitano has basically claimed in Japan, to my knowledge. Outrage was clearly easy for him. I simply got bored. If he could’ve excised 30 minutes and tightened what he has here, it could’ve been fun. Late in the film, Kitano’s character is advised that vengeance is useless since, these days, the best revenge is to outlast one’s opponent. I felt, at the end of the film, ‘outlasted’ by Kitano… so now I wonder if Outrage is vengeance against film audiences who have come to expect regurgitative genre exercises from Kitano… but no, that’s just this scribbler imbuing coincidence with meaning which isn’t there… Which, now that I think about it, is what quite a lot of filmmakers do too…

written by David Ashley