In his nearly three decades as a director, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano has won many critical plaudits and prizes abroad. But in Japan he is best known as a TV personality and comedian. These two strands of his artistic personality — master director and mass entertainer — have come together in his “Outrage” trilogy about present-day gang wars, with Kitano himself starring as an old-school yakuza, Otomo.
The trilogy ends with the new “Outrage Coda.” Similar to “Outrage” (2010) and “Outrage Beyond” (2012), the cast is heavily populated with graying veterans, the characters regularly explode into purple-faced rants and the body count is off the charts.
“Outrage Coda” also features a full complement of gangster types, from the floridly eccentric to the coldly psychotic. If the action isn’t especially fresh — Kitano fans will spot references to his earlier films — his talent for spare-but-impactful visuals and mean-but-funny twists is still intact. And this unregenerately macho action flick digs deep into the criminal psyche, exposing its loneliness as well as its unlimited capacity for cruelty.
|Rating||out of 5|
|Run Time||104 mins|
The story begins with Otomo on the South Korean island of Jeju working for Chang (Tokio Kaneda), a fixer in the local sex industry. One night Otomo is summoned to placate a burly Japanese client dissatisfied with two prostitutes he paid for. He is Hanada (Pierre Taki), part of the Hanabishi-kai, a Kansai-based gang that is the most powerful in Japan. The kinky Hanada physically abused the women, for which an annoyed Otomo demands compensation. In the resulting violent back-and-forth a Chang subordinate ends up dead and Hanada skedaddles back to Japan.
The Hanabishi-kai is headed by Nomura (Ren Osugi), an ex-stock trader who married the former chairman’s daughter. This upstart neophyte is thoroughly despised by Nishino (Toshiyuki Nishida), a canny gang elder, who knows that Nomura’s blowhard front is a cover for his entirely justified insecurities. Reciprocating this dislike, Nomura schemes to eliminate both Nishino and his grizzled second-in-command Nakata (Sansei Shiomi) by playing one against the other.
Meanwhile, Otomo is steaming over not only Hanada’s insult to his Korean boss, but also the still painful fallout from the war between the Hanabishi-kai and his old gang, the now sadly depleted Sanno-kai, detailed in “Outrage Beyond.” What happens when his rage boils over?
As in the previous “Outrage” installments, the plot developments are byzantine, while the personalities tend to the grandiose and grotesque. Similar to “Goodfellas,” Martin Scorsese’s Mafia masterpiece, “Outrage Coda” garishly illuminates the stranger flowers in the criminal weed bed. Think Joe Pesci’s Tommy transposed to Japan.
One example is Nishino, who obsessively fingers his mouth and jaw like a cross between a chin-stroking wise man and an orally fixated infant. This odd bit of stage business, presumably dreamed up by Nishida, signals not only the character’s indifference to social convention, but also his power as a gangster and confidence as a man. All part and parcel of a bravura performance.
And Otomo? Typically for a Kitano tough guy, he expresses himself best with a gun. Not so typically, Kitano gives him the film’s most memorable line, as well as a fitting last bow. But what an outrage it would be if I were to tell you what they are.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5