Monday, October 08, 2012

NYFF ’12: Outrage Beyond

The Sanno Yakuza clan has practically become Japan Inc through the shrewd investment strategies of turncoat underboss Ishihara.  His rise to power was ruthless, as the scars of a handful of surviving foes attest.  Lead actor-director Takeshi Kitano (a.k.a. Beat Takeshi) gives a grateful world another dose of Yakuza badassery with Outrage Beyond (trailer here), the more restrained sequel to last year’s Outrage, which screens as a midnight selection of the 50th New York Film Festival.

If they know what’s good for them, viewers will be fully aware the last time we saw Kitano’s ultra-hardboiled Otomo, he was on the business end of a rather fatal looking prison attack.  However, it will take more than a shiv in the yard to dispatch a hardnose like Otomo.  Things are looking up as OB opens.  Otomo is about to get an early parole thanks to the scheming of the contemptible Det. Kataoka.  By kicking Otomo loose, the crooked cop hopes the gangster will do what he does best.  If nothing else, it is sure to alarm Ishihara.

Not proud of the things he was ordered to do in Outrage 1, Otomo is reluctant to get back in the game.  Yet, he is convinced by an unlikely new ally, Kimura, the man on the other end of the shiv.  Frankly, Otomo does not blame him.  He was the one who permanently scarred his former rival’s face.  Rather put out by the way their former bosses manipulated them, Otomo and Kimura agree to Kataoka’s dodgy plan to wage war against the Sanno, with the suspect backing of the Hanabishi clan.  Of course, it gets way more complicated than that.

Kitano is still the Miles Davis of Yakuza movies.  Nobody else is so rivetingly stone cold cool, while saying so little.  Once again, his shark-like relentlessness and knowing resignation are wholly sufficient to carry the film on his shoulders.  OB is far less action-driven than its predecessor, but it nicely matches the world-weariness of its protagonists.  Still, the opening act is a bit talky and heavy on the exposition.  Nonetheless, the intriguing relationship between Kitano’s Otomo and Hideo Nakano’s Kimura, putting the honor back into the underworld, elevates the second Outrage above the Yakuza field.

While Kitano is the definitive star of the film and possibly the entire genre, he has some colorful support from the overwhelmingly male dominated cast.  As Kataoka, Fumiyo Kohinata is still a hissably audience-pleasing sleazebag.  Coming more to the fore in OB, Ryo Kase also takes a heck of a villainous turn as the oily, borderline psychotic Ishihara.

Like the previous film, Kitano presents the Yakuza world as a chilly, severe environment, dominated by ritual and rich but Spartan decors.  Fans will be happy to hear it is also rather violent.  Though it might not be as slam-bang as they would prefer, it payoffs in a big way.  Although not quite as inspired as its predecessor, Outrage Beyond is a cerebral excursion into gangsterism from a master of the genre, making it a fitting choice for NYFF’s inaugural Midnight section.  It screens this Friday (10/12) and Saturday (10/13) at the Walter Reade and Francesca Beale Theaters, respectively.