It's only January 5, but already I've seen a film that will surely occupy a prime position on my top ten list at year's end.
As my gut predicted, Takeshi Kitano's Outrage (Autoreiji; 2010) is a controlled masterpiece, and the best film the auteur has made since the sizzling Hanna-bi (aka Fireworks).
Kitano's yakuza films are fascinated by the small details of gangster politics, so it is a small detail -- a wrong decision -- that triggers a brutal war between factions in this deft, crisp, exceptional piece of filmmaking. As usual, the drama provokes splashes of crimson that denote the disintegration of a crime family. Kitano, though not the key participant, takes an enforcer role that shows us his Sunday best.
Written, edited, and directed by Kitano, Outrage does quite the opposite of glorify the gangster life. It paints for us an underground society that is, for most, a vicious hell on earth where nobody is to be trusted, money is more important than anything, and relationships are not worth spit. Every act is one of self-advancement, and every step on the ladder to the top is but a cruel mirage for gullible players.
The violence is very wince-worthy and impactful. We get chopsticks jammed in ear drums, an excruciating assault with a dentist drill, and a brutally beautiful scene involving a car, a rope, and one unlucky fuck whose time is up.
Music by Keiichi Suzuki, who also scored Kitano's Zatoichi, has a somber, electronic base that adds an interesting but not distracting element to the proceedings. Katsumi Yanagijima, who shot Fukasaku's brilliant Battle Royale, does a superb job with Outrage's visuals. The soft, subtle tones perfectly contrast with the frequent displays of glorious and disturbing Grand Guignol.
This is a harrowing, compelling yakuza drama from a master of the moving image.
The Japanese Blu-ray is of exceptional quality and is English subtitled
It is available from amazon.co.jp or cdjapan.co.jp