MRR Review: "Beyond Outrage"
on 2014-01-15 17:00
Length: 112 Minutes
Release Date: October 6, 2012
Directed by: Takeshi Kitano
Genre: Action / Crime / Drama
"Beyond Outrage” writer, director and producer Takeshi Kitano is a true Renaissance man of many ventures. Aside from filmmaking, he also counts writing, singing and painting among his talents. The survivalist nature of the "Beyond Outrage” plot reflects Kitano's own ability to accomplish virtually anything to which he sets his mind. His casting of himself as the main character, Otomo, seems to be a nod to having written a bit of himself into the re-inventive character. Kitano, who moonlights as a professor at Tokyo University of the Arts, is best known in the Japanese film industry for drawing out scenes to the point of making audiences feel uncomfortable. The effect is a positive one, however, because it shifts viewer focus to the impact of small, important details that tend to be missed in the typically fast-moving action genre. It also forces viewers to absorb the minutiae of the film. The end result is a movie that is as smart as it is engrossing.
"Beyond Outrage” is an intense drama about two powerful gangs in a struggle for control over Japanese organized crime. The Japanese police become involved when a high-ranking member of the government is found dead, and it is suspected that one of the gangs is responsible. Investigators decide that the best way to infiltrate the higher ranks of the gang they suspect is responsible is by sending a former associate, who is serving a prison sentence, of the suspected gang to revive old rifts and draw out the gang member(s) responsible for the government official's death. The police arrange for the early dismissal of the associate, Otomo, from prison. Upon hearing of Otomo's early release, the new head of his former gang hires a hit man to kill him before he can attempt to reintegrate himself into the gang scene. Otomo, however, convinces the rival gang to help him take revenge on his former gang for allowing him to be sent to prison. As the rival gang carries out a plan to murder several key members of Otomo's former gang, surviving members join the rival gang. Ultimately, the two gangs come together to form a single organized crime unit throughout Japan. The movie concludes with a plot twist that is typical of the type of atmosphere and plot that separates Japanese crime drama from its American counterparts.
Although the plot of "Beyond Outrage” is intense, there is the feel of dark comedy throughout the film that is somewhat of a wink to Kitano's background as a video game designer. Like similarly themed video games, the movie is intense but somehow avoids taking itself too seriously. This is perhaps what makes "Beyond Outrage” so easy to watch in spite of its violent premise. Furthermore, even though they are murderous criminals, Kitano's characters remain likeable figures with whom the audience can easily empathize. This talent of Kitano's is, again, best realized through the character he portrays. Otomo assists a rival gang in helping him fulfill a vendetta against his former gang. He retains a sentimental attachment to his old "brothers,” however. This attachment is especially evident in the final scenes of the film. For the audience, the connection makes it easy to embrace the idea that gangs, for members, are not merely a protective group but a family. Hence, Otomo's determination to make those who allowed him to go to prison pay for their actions takes on a compelling and complex twist as it becomes clear that he doesn't feel betrayed by mere associates but family. The moral is clear. The world as a family knows it ends when members turns against one another.
In the end, the almost literary feel of "Beyond Outrage” sets it apart from the typical crime drama. It doesn't rely mostly on an audience solely inspired by the rush of adrenaline. Rather, it sticks to its guns with well thought-out characters, a highly stylized and crisp script and an artistic camera work. Those who expect a cheetah-paced gangbusters movie might struggle in the beginning to appreciate the intricate details as intentional parts of the film that are carefully built into both the script and camera angles. Once viewers catch on to the meticulous construction that is Kitano's signature style, they are sure to appreciate all of the individual pieces of the film as they come together to make a whole. This makes "Beyond Outrage” the perfect introductory film for those who like a crime drama that is smart as well as those who are new to the generally atmospheric Japanese drama.
Rating: 3 out of 5