Combustible Celluloid
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With: Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Tomokazu Miura, Jun Kunimura, Tetta Sugimoto, Takashi Tsukamoto, Hideo Nakano, Renji Ishibashi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Soichiro Kitamura, Yukiyo Tanahashi, Naoko Watanabe
Written by: Takeshi Kitano
Directed by: Takeshi Kitano
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and brief sexuality
Language: Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 109
Date: 05/17/2010

Outrage (2011)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Finger Men

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A while back, Takeshi Kitano was one of Japan's top entertainers. He has been a comedian, painter, writer, singer, and TV show host in addition to being one of the country's most interesting film directors, screenwriters, and actors (he also edits his own films). Over the years, he has created a number of vicious gangster and crime films, usually featuring a unique kind of slow boil, or rather, stillness juxtaposed with sudden explosions of brutal violence.

I have no idea if Kitano -- who acts under his stage name "Beat" Takeshi -- is still as popular today in Japan as he was 20 years ago. But in this country, he has been largely absent since The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi was released here in 2004. Thus his new movie Outrage may have a different feel to audiences here, more like a comeback or an attempt to re-capture some old, former glory. Happily, Outrage is super-cool; it's inventive, funny, and shocking enough that it really doesn't matter much where Kitano has been. He's back now.

Takeshi plays Otomo, a right-hand man to a top Yazkuza gangster, Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura). During a meeting with the "Chairman" (Soichiro Kitamura), Ikemoto is ordered to sever his ties with a lower-level gangster, Murase (Renji Ishibashi), even though they are sworn brothers. Ikemoto orders Otomo to open an office on Murase's turf and start a small skirmish with him. He does, over an unpaid bill in a Yakuza nightclub. In true Kitano style, this small thing turns into an enormous turf war, with dozens of dead bodies, slashed faces, severed fingers, and painful dental work.

In this film, Kitano has picked up the pace a bit from his earlier gangster pictures Sonatine and Fireworks, and he drops the odd humor that was present in Zatoichi. Now his deadpan humor returns, based on that previously mentioned cross between stillness and violence. In one scene, Otomo is in the bathroom, wiping blood from his nose after a skirmish. An explosion rocks the building outside; his reaction is to move his head a little to the left. Then, the "before" and "after" shots of the affected room provide a further laugh. These laughs, of course, arise from the quality of the film's violence. Kitano's brand of shock is specifically designed to result in a release of laughter.

The storytelling isn't as crisp as it could be, and it's sometimes not easy to follow the dozens of characters and the intricate double-crosses and chess moves between them. And I was hoping that the ending would hold more of a zinger than it actually does. (Though Kitano is reportedly at work on a sequel.) But overall, this is a terrific movie for those that don't mind a dash of gallows humor in their crime stories.

Magnolia's excellent Blu-Ray comes with a very good behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews, and trailers.

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