Downton Yakuza: Beyond Outrage

01/01/2014 4:00 AM |

Beyond Outrage
Directed by Takeshi Kitano

When an artist is talented enough, sometimes “selling out” yields a vibrant departure rather than a calculated product. Cases in point: David Cronenberg’s History of Violence, David Gordon Green’s Pineapple Express, or Takeshi Kitano’s 2010 film Outrage, an inventively gory, labyrinthine tale of deceit within yakuza families. But that cash-grab has now begat Beyond Outrage, another cash-grab that unfortunately wears its cheapness on its sleeve. Using the final betrayal in Outrage as a stepping-off point (the murder of the Sanno family’s chairman by his underboss), the sequel focuses primarily on the clan’s internal politics, namely rewarding the highest earners, regardless of age, instead of following traditional yakuza codes of honor and respect. However, this intergenerational conflict is played out in scene after scene of rather dull conversations, spat out in an almost identical macho cadence. In many ways, this is the yakuza version of Downton Abbey: two characters talk about their situation, followed by another two (or three) characters talking about their situation, the cycle only broken up by glossy exterior shots. As such, either is only appealing to diehard fans of Japanese crime syndicates or prewar English aristocratic life, and are likely equally unrealistic.

While Outrage’s lack of comedic digressions made it stand out from Kitano’s previous work (such as the existentially brilliant Sonatine), Beyond Outrage feels heavy due to a serious lack of variety in setting, character, or tone, in and of itself or in relation to its predecessor. For the first third of the film, the only person moving the plot forward is Detective Karaota (Fumiyo Kohinata), a corrupt cop trying to push the families to all-out war; when the story shifts to reluctant-to-return-to-the-game Otomo (Kitano) and Kimura (Hideo Nakano), the pace and unsurprising turn of events (i.e.: the domino effect) remain the same, regardless of how many digits get unnecessarily chopped off. Even the deliciously malicious Ishihara (Ryo Kase)—the dark-glasses wearing, English-fluent gangster who repeatedly manipulated an African diplomat to great dark comedic effect in Outrage, stealing the show from Kitano—seems diminished in badness, reduced to barking orders to his subordinates. Here’s hoping that Kitano uses the money from this to return to his roots—or do a radical shoujo adaptation.

Opens January 3

One Comment