Outrage: Takeshi Kitano Continues His Yakuza Fixation

Takeshi Kitano’s latest finds the actor/director returning to the familiar terrain of the yakuza film after recent farces (Achilles and the Tortoise, Glory to the Filmmaker!) dealing with artistic endeavor. Stark and brutal, Outrage is a litany of startlingly violent set pieces filmed in Kitano’s decorous, aestheticized style, gunshots blooming like carnations. The violence is strictly business, which is to say the deeply personal expression of the characters’ seething, frustrated ambition. Kitano looks at the yakuza world with bemused irony: Honor among thieves is here an obsolete myth, and the crime syndicate a grotesque parody of corporate culture, with subordinates grubbing for favor and absorbing abuse while quietly planning their promotions. (The film is dotted with reaction shots where you can see hate cooling into a grudge, resentments filed for later use.) Yakuza overlord “Mr. Chairman” (Sôichirô Kitamura) incites an incident between two subordinate families under his control, the Murase (headed by Renji Ishibashi), and the Ikemoto, whose chief (Jun Kunimura) delegates his violence to Ôtomo (Kitano), variously enforcing his boss’ dictates with a dental drill, X-Acto knife, and precision taps from a handgun. As the families double-cross each other into oblivion, the viewer maintains a cold, lofty perch over Kitano’s killing floor. Like one of its yakuza bigs, Outrage commands respect, but no affection.