When the Chairman (Soichiro Kitamura) of the ruling Sonno-kai family becomes suspicious of clan chief Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura) and his friendship with rival gangster Murase (Renji Ishibashi) and his clan, he orders Ikemoto to break off contact and prove his loyalty. Reluctant to dirty his own hands, Ikemoto turns to his loyal captain, the enigmatic, taciturn Otomo (the director, billed as usual as Beat Takeshi) for help.
A tit-for-tat cycle of insult and humiliation between the two gangs soon escalates however into bloody violence and retribution when Otomo goes too far, slashing a rival’s face and one of his men is beaten to death in revenge. A bloody turf war ensues, the Chairman manipulating Ikemoto, Murase and Otomo to his own ends, playing them off against each other while the Chairman’s underboss Kato (Tomokazu Miura) looks on in disgust and waits for a chance to make his move…
Reminiscent of Alan (Scum) Clarke’s TV play Elephant and its never-ending series of senseless, faceless, arbitrary violence, Outrage marks a return to the gangster genre for Beat Takeshi (his last Yakuza movie being 2000’s Brother) after a decade of more personal, self-indulgent projects. Charting the internecine, almost Jacobean struggle for supremacy in Tokyo’s underworld, Outrage doesn’t pull any punches.
Fingers are lopped off in apology for minor insults. Faces are slashed, bodies stabbed, bones broken and splintered. A chopstick is driven into a victim’s ear. In a scene that both parodies and ups the ante on Marathon Man, Otomo uses a dentist’s drill to devastating effect on a helpless opponent’s teeth, lips and cheek. Gangsters are shot, stabbed, blown up and, in one extreme case involving a car and a length of rope, virtually decapitated, for little or no discernible reason.
Gone is the elegiac, almost spiritual, tone of earlier works like Sonatine or Hana-Bi, Outrage is down, dirty and mean with it, a nasty spiral of cross, double-cross and increasingly extreme violence as outrage is heaped upon outrage, each act requiring punishment, the perpetrators mere pawns in a game they don’t understand or even see, locked into their own perverse, nihilistic lifestyle, their sense of honour and belief in their own rigid, hierarchical, power structure chewing them up and spitting them out as the bosses plot.
Deconstructing and exposing as shallow the gangster lifestyle, Outrage feels like it’s probably Takeshi Kitano’s last Yakuza movie as he stabs and buries alive the persona he’s played throughout his career. Bleak, complex and cynical, it’s as powerful and angry a piece of work as he’s ever produced but is ultimately unsatisfying, a wearying cavalcade of brutality with little point. Which is probably the point.
Beat Takeshi, Keppei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Tomokazu Miura, Jun Kunimura, Tetta Sugimoto, Takashi Tsukamoto, Hideo Nakano, Renji Ishibashi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Soichiro Kitamura