JAPAN 2010 Directed by: Takeshi Kitano Written by: Takeshi Kitano Produced by: Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida Cinematography by: Katsumi Yanagijima Editing by: Takeshi Kitano Music by: Keiichi Suzuki Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Tomoko Miura, Jun Kunimura, Tetta Sugimoto, Takashi Tsukamoto, Yuka Itaya, Hideo Nakano, Renji Ishibashi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Soichiro Kitamura
An “entertaining” movie he wanted to make, Takashi Kitano said about OUTRAGE. A movie with no other ambition than that, a movie not even marking a return to the Yakuza genre. Something quite different from the preceding films.
In many ways OUTRAGE quite well corresponds to Mr. Kitano’s intentions. It was Mr. Kitano himself who delivered the swan song of the Yakuza movie two decades ago – interpreting OUTRAGE as a movie depicting a changing world where the old code of honor is worth nothing would mean to ignore the oeuvre of Mr. Kitano (as well as that of many other directors). Hailing OUTRAGE as a milestone of the genre, or as an epic story about the system individuals operate within, as well as the rules they abide by, would be nothing but evidence of ignorance.
Watching OUTRAGE is a bit of a time machine experience: we are revisiting places, characters and motifs of Mr. Kitano’s milestones, all amid a permanent conflict of signals the film sends. Is that shirt or that suit actually from the 80’s? But then why is that car from the 2000’s? There are obsolete characters in a modern world, and then there are contemporary characters in an obsolete world. It’s a constant struggle, also for the writer-director Takeshi Kitano. It seems like the cast from VIOLENT COP was beamed into modern-day Japan.
But what exactly is the difference between now and then? What has changed? Not much, I have to say. People kill for money, or for revenge, or for power. At some point Mr. Kitano rephrases the motif for violence as being “career”: a term that fits to times like these, where people spend 80% of their time on playing politics in corporations, positioning themselves and lying their asses off, while only spending 5% of their time actually working (the other 15% are spent on facebook @work). Nevertheless, climbing up the social ladder is what it’s always been about, and the way to get there doesn’t differ much from how it happened in Mr. Kitano’s earlier films. The permanent betrayal is nothing but an amplification of what we have seen before, and it much more has become a means of dramaturgy that drives the film forward than it being the actual subject of the movie. Betrayal doesn’t indicated loss of values in the Yakuza universe anymore, it merely indicates plot points.
For Otomo (or whatever he was called before) things don’t change however, and he doesn’t participate in change. Change is for the others. Betrayal comes as a surprise. He is a guy who cuts his finger off first and only later finds out that he did it for someone who deceived him. And he hasn’t realized yet that cutting off fingers just doesn’t cut it anymore anno 2010 in the first place. What makes him an anachronism also makes him the biggest threat to the “career Yakuza”: he doesn’t live for tomorrow, he lives for the past. The good old days are preserved within the Otomo character as he acts by their rules and their ethics and applies that school of thought to a world that has evolved.
Otomo doesn’t oppose progress (he doesn’t care enough about it), but he is the force that prevents it from happening (even though the world moves on without him finally). What Mr. Kitano doesn’t make clear is if OUTRAGE now is a statement for or against progress, or if it just laments that the world changes indeed with or without us, or if it’s an advice to adapt or if it’s about the survival of the fittest, whatever that means at a specific point in time.
Maybe OUTRAGE is a melancholic statement that there’s nothing left worth fighting for, or it’s the same statement made before, that idealists are a dying breed. But most probably it’s none of the above, but instead what Mr. Kitano set out to do in the first place: rock-solid entertainment that plays with genre conventions rather than making any statement or providing any new insights at all. OUTRAGE, maybe for the first time, is really a genre movie, not the genre-bending Kitano movie we all know.