Monday, November 28, 2011

Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage

If a Yakuza gangster causes offense, it will cost him a finger, if he is lucky. The rank and file of the Ikemoto and Murase clans are about to lose a lot of fingers, but through no real fault of their own. A high level power struggle will make the gangsters’ lives complicated and all kinds of violent in Takeshi Kitano/Beat Takeshi’s Outrage (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Ikemoto is a sworn brother to Murase, but the Chairman (his sworn “father”), wants the clan boss to turn on his old friend. It is not a request. The boss of bosses is still old school enough to be appalled by the Murase drug dealing network. To preserve plausible deniability, Ikemoto sends his underboss Otomo to set up his own subsidiary clan operation in Murase’s territory. Otomo duly provokes the Murase organization, leaving them little recourse, given his connection to Ikemoto. Yet, as the betrayals and naked power grabs come fast and furious, even the stone cold Otomo starts to lose his cool.

Beat Takeshi, as he is billed when appearing on-screen, is the Miles Davis of Yakuza movies and Outrage is the perfect vehicle for his return to the genre. Despite the mayhem roiling around him, he keeps it all grounded with his fatalism and “so what” attitude. Indeed, his persona is perfectly suited to the grim logic of the Yakuza, where everyone knows the next one might have their name on it.

As the director and editor, Kitano juggles his large cast quite deftly, clearly delineating the complex relationships and subsequent double-crosses. Amongst the ensemble, Fumiyo Kohinata really stands out as the utterly sleazy crooked Det. Kataoka. Kitano also upholds his reputation as one of the finer directors of violence with several scenes that neatly split the difference between the brutal and the cartoonish. Never operatic in the Scorsese or De Palma tradition, or over-the-top a la Tarantino, his action scenes are shot in a straight forward manner, from a soldier’s perspective, which is rather compelling when it all starts to go down, right in our faces.

It is so good to have Takeshi/Kitano back on both sides of the camera. Outrage is the sort of film that will unleash viewers’ inner Yakuza fanboy, because it truly delivers the goods. Enormous fun for those not overly sensitive, Outrage is enthusiastically recommended when it opens this Friday (12/2) in New York at the Cinema Village.