/ outrage beyond
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Amid the fairly flaccid line-up of this year’s Sydney Film Festival resides a handful of true gems: Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage Beyond among them. Kitano, a legend of Japanese cinema, is something of a Renaissance man, comparable to Clint Eastwood in numerous ways: his grizzled bedside manner, hard-boiled screen personas, esoteric directorial style, and approach to apathetic violence.
Well-know in his native Japan as a TV presenter and comedian, his directorial debut, 1989’s Violent Cop, heralded a radical new voice in cinema, drawing from the lyricism of Kurosawa, the ferocity of Kinji Fukasaku, and the 70s grit of Don Siegel. Equally at home with both violent explorations of masculinity and intimate domestic dramas, his work is exceptional, and worth seeking out (if for nothing else than his delirious, enormously enjoyable 2003 reinterpretation of Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman).
The stand-alone sequel to 2010’s Outrage, Outrage Beyond reunites Kitano with the genre that made his name – the yakuza film – and he delivers a superlative meditation on the genre. Released from prison following the events of the first film, Otomo (Kitano), a former yakuza captain, finds himself propelled into a conflict between two rival clans, engineered by an ambitious police detective. Initially reluctant to reenter his old life of crime, it’s not long before Otomo is drawn back into the fold, leading to a bloody, brutal and immensely satisfying gang war.
This is an old-fashioned film in many regards, full of pitch-black humour, browbeating performances, and lashings of incidental violence. Here, Kitano most channels his inner-Eastwood as the gnarled, snarling Otomo: a gunslinger of the old guard, long in the tooth but still possessing a powerful bite. The abundance of characters and plot-strands conceals a deceptively simple narrative, and there’s real satisfaction in seeing him draw the threads together in a series of fantastic pay-offs and set pieces.
This is a talky film, as much about the politics of crime as it is the results, and those looking for straight-up action may do better elsewhere. The film is languidly paced, easing you into the world and its players – but when violence explodes in Kitano’s film, it does so in the most uncomfortable and imaginative ways (a batting cage has never been used more hilariously, or to such nauseating effect).
With Outrage, Kitano took a deliberate step away from his more adventurous, less commercially viable works (check out Takeshis for a slice of surrealist wonderment) and conceived the film as pure entertainment. With Outrage Beyond, he effortlessly recaptures the gritty 1970s spirit, paying skillful homage to the genre that made his name, and delivering an elegiac, excruciating, and exceptional yakuza noir.