Cannes Review: Outrage (Autoreiji)

Outrage is a film entirely comfortable with itself, extremely pleased to be delivering yakuza violence to the big screen in almost every scene. It's not big on plot, building character, or telling a compelling story, but it is big on chopped-off fingers, punched faces, and the occasional involuntary dental work. The film is darkly comical, though it's hard to determine how much of that is intentional. But hey, let's all give a big "kampai" to knowing your strengths and playing to them early and often.

The opening scenes of Outrage boast a precision that belies the actual tone of the piece, but they're pretty to behold nonetheless. It's a yakuza meet-up, with black Mercedes Benz's at the ready while a head honcho named "The Chairman" is dispensing orders. The gangsters all listen and nod obediently before being dispatched back to their home territories, but one of the bosses, Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura), is asked to stay afterward for a personal scolding. It seems that a close associate of his, named Murase, has been dealing drugs and the Sanno-Kano crime family would like that to stop, immediately. Ikemoto nods respectfully and then heads back to his car. He asks one of his lieutenants, Otomo (played by the director and writer of the film, Takeshi Kitano) to handle the matter for him. Otomo attempts to send a message to Murase, but from there matters quickly spiral out of control. That spiraling takes up the rest of the running time of Outrage.

The movie just as easily could have been called 37 Violent Scenes in a Row given how the story progresses. Very little time is spent with each player in the gang world, with the focus instead going to the constantly shifting "respect" competition. You disgraced one of my guys, now I owe you one. One of your guys is dead so I know you're going to have to hit me back. Add in the fact that The Chairman is sending constantly mixed messages and you've got a recipe for a bloodbath, which in fact this turns out to be.

In a sense, this clarity of purpose is also the film's eventual undoing. By not being about more than anything besides men trying to hurt each other (with the occasional woman becoming accidentally involved), Outrage forsakes any chance it had at becoming a classic gangster film. This isn't The Godfather or even Infernal Affairs; it's just a slightly forgettable action film.

As such, even though there were moments worth smirking at and oodles of violence entitled to a certain measure of respect, the film won't have much staying power. It's a film about the criminal underbelly of Japan, but it sheds no new light on a fascinating subject. Bullets and beatings fly, but that's the entirety of what's accomplished.

Grade: C+