These days Takashi Miike really needs no introduction, he’s one of the leading forces in modern Japanese cinema and his prolific body of violent and eccentric work has won over many a fan of cult, extreme and foreign cinema. Deadly Outlaw: Rekka is a Yakuza tale which is a subject Miike is perhaps one of the foremost masters of as it’s what a large amount of his flicks are centred around. I was pretty excited to check this one out when I read the soundtrack was from none other than Flower Travelin’ Band. Deadly Outlaw: Rekka looked like a collision of some of the killer elements of Japanese pop culture I’ve really grown fond of over the last fear years.
Deadly Outlaw: Rekka revolves itself around Kunisada’s (Riki Takeuchi) quest for revenge against a rival crime family who murdered his boss. Kunisada butts heads with his superiors who wish to maintain a truce which he sees as cowardly and weak. He of course sets out against their wishes and finds himself targeted by both sides.
The use of tunes from Flower Travelin’ Band is immediately striking and really ads mood to the film without it coming off like some faux Tarantinoism. So much post Pulp Fiction cinema suffers from this and it was refreshing to see Rekka didn’t go down this path. In the interview Miike states that the band were ahead of their time and was very happy with how their music fitted in seamlessly.I have to agree on both counts. Great stuff. Cool how Joe Yamanaka and Yuya Ichida had roles in the film too.
Miike plays the film straight for the most part until the last quarter where things get a little more crazy once Kunisada pulls out his rocket launcher. Deadly Outlaw: Rekka reminded me of Hong Kong directors Ringo Lam crime flicks but Miike, never one to adhere to strict genre conventions, lays some of his trademark over-the-top absurdity on the audience with the film’s conclusion. This may perhaps divide viewers’ reactions, particularity those who aren’t as well versed in Miike’s flicks as it does deviate from what the film initially sets up. I personally was expecting something bizarre to make an appearance and was more surprised he held off until so late in the precedings. As was the case with Young Thugs: Nostalgia this is a more mature film that shows restraint but still has enough moments of madness to keep the Ichi the Killer and Fudoh fans from feeling alienated. I thought Rekka was a great watch that’s made me keen on revisiting some of the classic HK gangster flicks I haven’t seen since the Chinatown Video days.
It was a bit of a pity this disc sent for review was only a screener as I was eager to check out what Arrow Films had in store for the artwork and presentation of the disc. These guys have really gone all out on their releases lately, some well welcomed deluxe editions of cult favourites that have really raised the bar and put the shoddy R4 crap we’ve been putting up with to shame. I believe the retail version of Deadly Outlaw: Rekka has a booklet with stills, an essay and a write up on Flower Travelin’ Band which will no doubt be killer and the exclusive cover art looks great. All up this is a disc both Miike and fans of crime cinema (especially those looking for something more offbeat) will definitely get a kick out of.
DIRECTOR(S): Takashi Miike | COUNTRY: Japan | YEAR 2002 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Arrow Films (screener copy)| RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1 | REGION: 2 | DISCS: 1