Thursday, July 26, 2018

Japan Cuts ’18: Outrage Coda

Otomo is tan, rested, and ready. His recent time on Jeju Island has been restorative, but he will swing back into action when an up-and-coming yakuza misbehaves in a hotel controlled by his protector. The Yakuza factions will double-cross each other every chance they get, but they cannot possibly contain the chaos let loose by Otomo in Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage Coda (trailer here), which screens during the 2018 Japan Cuts Festival of New Japanese Film.

After beating up two prostitutes who balked at his S&M games, the arrogant Hanada demanded an apology from their organization. Instead, he gets a humiliating dressing-down from Otomo. Hanada even agrees to pay restitution, but he kills Otomo’s bag man on the way out of the country. This does not sit well with Otomo’s new boss, Chang, the politically connected leader of a Korean syndicate that also has operations in Japan. When Hanada’s belated attempt to apologize backfires, Otomo is given the unspoken go-ahead to extract some old school payback.

Since a crisis is also an opportunity, etc., etc., an old school gangster faction within Hanada’s Hanabishi-kai schemes to exploit the brewing conflict with Chang to oust their current president, Nomura, a former financier who did not come up through the yakuza ranks. Of course, while he’s at it, Otomo would also like some payback for his lieutenants who were killed in the previous film.

As director, screenwriter, and lead actor, Takeshi Kitano/Beat Takeshi totally delivers the gangster beatdown goods, once again. Coda is nearly as good as the original Outrage and considerably superior to the still-pretty-good Beyond. In some ways, Coda feels like Kitano’s summation film, sort of like a yakuza Harry Brown or Gran Torino, but Kitano and Otomo apologize for nothing. They might be grizzled and world-weary, but they still have work to do—and if you’re part of it, then woe unto you.

As Otomo, Takeshi the thesp always tacked an ultra-cool, understated approach, but he pares his performance down even further this time around, like a minimalist yakuza Mad Max. However, when he has something to say, it is usually very funny, in a stone-cold kind of way. Kitano also has the support of a small army of colorful supporting players, such as Toshiyuki Nishida as the opportunistic but high-strung underboss Nishino and Pierre Taki as the thuggish Hanada.

For fans of the previous Outrage films, Coda will at least meet and most likely exceed their expectations, which is saying something. It is a fitting conclusion to Otomo’s grand story that has a puncher’s chance of becoming Kitano’s definitive film. It is also a ripping good time at the movies. Very highly recommended, Outrage Coda screens Saturday (7/28) at the Japan Society, as part of this year’s Japan Cuts.