Actor/director Takeshi “Beat” Kitano is probably most well known for his string of ultra-violent Yakuza films in the ’90s. Masterpieces like Violent Cop and Sonatine cemented Kitano’s stone-cold demeanor, deadpan humor, and often Zen-like atmospheres into the cannon of must-see Japanese cinema. After those films Takeshi went on to make more lighthearted comedy/drama fare (with the slight exception of his The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi remake), but now, 10 years after his last Yakuza oriented film, Brother, he makes a long-awaited return to the blood-spattered stage with his latest film, Outrage.

Outrage deals with the simmering-until-boiling-point conflicts between (and within) the Iketomo and Murase crime syndicates. It’s a rivalry that involves many complicated angles, but ultimately breaks down to: a long-ago vow made in prison, turf wars over drug territories, and a power struggle for the Boss’s favour. Also coming into play are a corrupt detective, a blackmailed African ambassador, and plenty of superbly choreographed and explicit violence.

Kitano describes the initial development process of Outrage as beginning by envisioning the various ways in which the characters would die, then shaping a story around the deaths. He wanted to make a film with no ambition other than to entertain, and it shows. Gone are the existential idiosyncratic gangsters that populated Beat’s early films and gone are the lingering poetic visuals, leaving only a cold and heartless Yakuza action epic, but a stylish one nonetheless. Which is fine, I’m all for violent Japanese genre flicks, it’s just almost hard to tell this one’s made by Kitano himself, despite his always entertaining grim-faced presence.

That’s not to say this is in any way a bad film, in fact it’s pretty fucking impressive and still carries some of that dark undercurrent of humor known from his early films. It begins rather emotionless (deliberately I’m sure), but as it nears the last quarter and the bodies begin to stack up, so does the film’s energy. Some notable causes of death and injury include a box cutter to the face, dental drill mutilation, chopsticks vs. ear canal, and bullet wounds too numerous to mention, some rather inventively shot. One main gripe for me is that Kitano doesn’t feature as much as I would’ve liked, his fixed, expressionless face even while carrying out the nastiest of tasks is always a pleasure to behold. Regardless, recommended viewing.

The only really noteworthy special feature is a 19 minute making of that includes insightful interviews with cast and crew members.

DIRECTOR(S): Takeshi Kitano | COUNTRY: Japan | YEAR 2010 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Madman | RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 2.35:1 Letterbox widescreen | REGION: 4 /PAL | DISCS: 1

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