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Japanese legend Kitano Takeshi returns to the Yakuza genre once again with “Outrage Beyond”, the follow up to his 2010 slice of commercially and critically popular ultra-violence. Given that the film was his most successful outing as director for some time, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, and fans will be pleased to hear that the sequel keeps the same level of brutality, while adding a little more in the way of plot. As with most of Kitano’s films, “Outrage Beyond” was picked up by a variety of international festivals, screening in competition at Venice, and generally played to positive reviews that acknowledged it as a hardcore return to old school Japanese gang cinema.
The film takes place five years after the finale of “Outrage”, with the Sanno clan now being run by survivors Kato (Tomokazu Miura) and Ishihara (Kase Ryo), who are trying to take the gang into the arguably even more vicious worlds of business and politics. Unfortunately, an anti-gangs detective called Kataoka (Kohinata Fumiyo) is plotting to bring the Sanno clan down by manipulating a war between them and the Kansai Hanabishi yakuza, led by Fuse (Shigeru Koyama) and his two very different henchmen Nishino (Nishida Toshiyuki) and Nakata (Shiomi Sansei). After getting him released from prison, Kataoka also persuades former Sanno enforcer Otomo to turn against his former allies and to team with his old enemy Kimura (Nakano Hideo) in joining the battle. Needless to say, the bodies soon start to pile up.
Even for those viewers who saw and enjoyed “Outrage”, the sequel starts off in somewhat overwhelming fashion, Kitano throwing in survivors from the original and new protagonists in rapid fashion and with very little in the way of exposition. Familiarity is assumed, and few concessions are given. Pleasingly though, the cast really click here more than they did in the first outing, with there being much more attention to character, and soon enough the film hits its stride, slowly picking out vaguely sympathetic figures and villainous dogs from its roster. There are considerably more of the latter, of course, and Kitano again focuses on themes of betrayal, deception and false brotherhood, with almost everyone doing everything they can to get ahead, including regularly selling out and killing their supposed comrades. The film is amoral throughout, and while this is nothing new, either for the genre or for Kitano himself, the sheer level of nihilism is so implacably intense that it quickly becomes bleakly comedic.
Thankfully, the film avoids the accusations of emptiness levelled by some at “Outrage”, and is all the better for adding in a more complex and thoughtful narrative. Mainly this comes through Kataoka’s constant scheming, which results in defections and a variety of different revenge and profit plots being hatched, pretty much all of which, unsurprisingly, end in bloodshed. At the same time, though its near-endless brutality feels inevitable, the film does have a number of entertaining twists, turns, character reversals and deaths along the way, enough so to keep it fast moving and gripping through a lengthy running time of nearly two hours.
Kitano also holds the interest through working in plenty of action, and the film is frequently quite shocking in terms of its violence, with some suitably nasty scenes underlining the general unpleasantness of the Yakuza world. This stands out all the more due to his grounded and down to earth direction, which is miles away from the flashiness and music video stylings shown by other less mature or talented helmers. Through this, the film emerges as a very creditable modern updating of the very best gangster works of Fukasaku Kinji, his 1973 classic “Battles without Honour and Humanity” in particular.
It’s really quite hard to imagine any fans of Japanese gangster cinema not getting a kick out of “Outrage Beyond”, and though it’s undoubtedly towards the more genre-friendly rather than artistic end of his spectrum, it’s another fine piece of craftsmanship from the immensely talented Kitano Takeshi. Involving and enjoyable despite its ruthlessness and its mostly dissolute cast of characters, it makes for a fine tale of dog eat dog, hammering home its points with guns, knives, bats and more in often spectacularly bloody fashion.
Takeshi Kitano (director) / Takeshi Kitano (screenplay)
CAST: Takeshi Kitano … Ohtomo
Ryo Kase … Ishihara
Toshiyuki Nishida … Nishino
Shun Sugata … Okamoto
Ken Mitsuishi … Gomi