If I was to summarize this film in one meme, it would be “That Escalated Quickly”, and I mean that very much in the original context where it’s used in Anchorman.
The film begins with a conference of Yakuza bosses, with Otomo (played by Takeshi Kitano), who runs a crew, left waiting on the outside. When Otomo’s boss is informed that he needs to distance himself from his sworn brother – another boss – because that boss is dealing drugs, Otomo is selected to be the tactic for that distancing, by muscling in on the second bosses turf. From there, things escalate out of control, as Otomo’s boss and his brother are manipulated against each other, Otomo against his boss’s sworn brother’s lieutenant, and on and on and on.
What makes this film work so well is that the film, which is also written and directed by Kitano, never loses the plot. While the film’s narrative has wheels within wheels within wheels, the mechanism is always visible.
The film is also very well shot. The movie’s cinematographer, Katsumi Yanagishima, had worked with Kitano several times before, including on Sonatine. The two work together incredibly well, doing a fantastic job of shooting this film, and making the violence in the film (which is more structured than the violence in Sonatine) more clearly visible when it needs to be – with the key being that Kitano is great at showing when to show violence and when not to show it.
When it’s more effective at unnerving the viewer, as when yakuza boss Murase is maimed in a dentist’s office, or when one Yakuza is forced to cut his finger off with a box cutter before getting his face slashed, we see the violence, because we as the audience fear how far things will go, how far will events escalate. However, once things reach their fever pitch, Kitano knows that we know that, so he can take things off camera, and let us be unnerved by what’s implied. It also serves as a great way to save budget, by having Otomo miss a grenade attack by being in the bathroom, so we see the aftermath instead of having to film a big explosion.
All in all, Outrage makes it clear that Kitano is one of the world’s best directors and writers of gangster film. That said, considering that this film ends with everything tied up in a bow, I’m kind of surprised that he made a sequel. I’m interested in seeing it, but I’m wondering how they’ll set the sequel up.