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REVIEW: Yakuza clans are all the rage again
Publication Date : 13-03-2013
More politics and toned-down violence in Outrage Beyond, director Takeshi Kitano's sequel to his 2010 gang war flick
The story: Five years after the gang war described in the first movie (Outrage, 2010), Tokyo's yakuza clans are dominated by a single family, the Sanno-kai, led by Chairman Kato (Tomokazu Miura). In this sequel, even the gangster-friendly police and politicians feel the need to cut the Sanno down to size. Crooked cop Kataoka (Fumiyo Kohinata) springs old-guard yakuza Otomo (Takeshi Kitano) from jail early, in the first of a series of set-ups he hopes will trigger a regime change.
Outrage (2010) was a blast of pure, dark-hearted pleasure. While its protagonists might have been gangsters, it was in its heart a political thriller, one with a ticking time-bomb built into its story, set to go off in the final chapter.
The sequel, like its predecessor, is a tense chess game of move and countermove, double-cross and backstab, all by serious men in grey suits, with the tension building up into the inevitable orgy of blood in the finale.
As in the previous film, this one is written, directed and edited by Japanese film legend Takeshi Kitano, who also stars. Take that, Ben Affleck and Clint Eastwood.
Because so many characters were killed off in the first film, nearly all of the ones who survived the tsunami of stabbing, shootings, decapitations and garrotings are back.
These include the new Chairman (Miura), the volatile English-speaking underboss Ishihara (Ryo Kase), unctuously greedy cop Kataoka (Kohinata) and old gangster Kimura of the Murase family (Hideo Nakano), who, in one memorable scene, had an X carved into his face with a paper cutter wielded by Otomo (Kitano), and who later returned the favour by stabbing Otomo while both were in jail.
In the first movie, Kitano spent a fair amount of time detailing the lives of men who make a living through extortion and intimidation, to great comic effect. Lamentably, in this round he has put those skit-like scenes aside. In its place is politics, and lots of it, at a pace that will have most members of the audience speed-reading the subtitles.
Kitano does not believe in spoon-feeding plot developments; that is one of this thriller's weakest points, and also strongest.
The more garish moments of cruelty that marked the M18-rated 2010 film have also been toned down, to NC16 level.
Here, there is a moment in which a drill is a tool for extracting information and a baseball pitching machine is used as an imaginative means of torture.
In Kitano's bleak landscape, men talk of the old ways, and of honour and loyalty, but both old and young alike pay only lip service to the feudal system of the yakuza.
A world that used to be run by very bad men with a very strong code of conduct is collapsing.
Guns and knives might still do a lot of damage, but in this age, says Kitano, the most powerful weapon in a thug's arsenal is information.