Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Movie Review: Beyond Outrage

Beyond Outrage
Directed by: Takeshi Kitano.
Written by: Takeshi Kitano.
Starring: Takeshi Kitano (Otomo), Toshiyuki Nishida (Underboss Nishino), Tomokazu Miura (Chairman Kato), Ryô Kase (Underboss Ishihara), Hideo Nakano (Kimura), Yutaka Matsushige (Detective Shigeta), Fumiyo Kohinata (Detective Kataoka), Katsunori Takahashi (Jo), Hirofumi Arai (Shima), Kenta Kiritani (Ono), Sansei Shiomi (Nakata), Shigeru Kôyama (Fuse), Tatsuo Nadaka (Shiroyama), Akira Nakao (Tomita).

Takeshi Kitano made some great Japanese gangster films in the 1990s – notably Sonatine and Fireworks (both 1996) where he played the Japanese equivalent of Clint Eastwood – a largely silent man, who when pushed, is capable of killing everyone in flashes of brutal violence. He largely left the genre behind after his American film, Brother (2000) – better than it’s given credit for – but returned to it with 2010’s Outrage. That film was a little disappointing to me – as it felt like the type of film Kitano could do in his sleep. It was done well, with a healthy dollop of Kitano’s trademark deadpan humor along with some of the most over the top violence you’re likely to see in a film, but it still felt like Kitano was just going through the motions – making something he knew would be popular after a few years of trying different genres with limited success. Despite my reservations, Outrage was a commercial success, so he returns now with Beyond Outrage – a sequel, which had to be tough considering the first film ended up with pretty much everyone dead – including the character played by Kitano himself, Otomo. But taking a page out of the Fast & Furious franchise, the movie reveals that thankfully Otomo isn’t dead like we all though he was at the end of Outrage, when we saw him get shanked in prison. That way, he can spend all of Beyond Outrage killing a lot more people.

Like its predecessor, Beyond Outrage tells a plot so convoluted that it’s hard to keep track of everything – but is also told with a wink and nudge by Kitano. Outrage was, I think, an ironic title for the first movie because while everyone in the film was constantly outraged about something, they weren’t really outraged – they just acted outraged at every small slight, so they could use it as an excuse to kill someone else, to advance their own careers. In Beyond Outrage, the new boss, Kato (Tomokazu Miura) has become cheap – much to the chagrin of those beneath him. He doesn’t serve lunch at an executive meeting and sends cheap gifts when they used to be more extravagant (at one point he tells his underlings to send a gift to someone, but warns them not to buy anything new – “Just send what we have”.) He and his underboss Ishihara (Ryo Kase) have started promoting younger Yakuza instead of more experienced ones based on seniority – like it’s always been done. They want to move into more “white collar” crime. They are like the new bosses at a struggling corporation trying to save some money – much to the chagrin of the older members. As before, a mob war is inevitable – and Otomo, newly released from prison, will be at the center of it.

The movie contains a lot of violence in it, although it never quite reaches the level of the first film, which was more (forgive me) outrageous. The film is amusing, at times looking like a workplace satire, with a lot more killing. And like Outrage, it is well made by Kitano, who can do this type of movie in his sleep. But even more than Outrage, that appears like what Kitano is doing here – making the movie on autopilot. It’s not a bad movie by any means – and I appreciate Kitano’s understated humor throughout. But still, it does nothing to really advance the genre, or give you any real reason to see it. It’s an average film from a filmmaker capable of a lot more.

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