After his self-indulgent meta trilogy examining various aspects his personality – Takeshi the celebrity (the impressive, but ultimately scuppered by interminable detours, Takeshis), Takeshi the director (the bonkers Glory to the Filmmaker!) and Takeshi the artist (the fairly awful Achilles and the Tortoise), Takeshi Kitano returned to his yakuza furrow with renewed vigour. Outrage was stripped back, violent and entertaining, a lean mean exercise in tit-for-tat escalation, and I really liked it. So a direct sequel (Kitano’s first?) seemed like an intriguing proposition. Sadly, Outrage Beyond is Kitano back on cruise control.
The plot is largely irrelevant, a typical tale of rival gangs muscling in on each other’s territories, back-stabbing and betrayal and the like, just this time continuing on with the same gangs and gangsters of Outrage Part I. That wasn’t a problem first time round, but in this instance the story is just a bit flabby and drawn out, exhausting a lot of time setting up a course of revenge that was inevitable from the outset. The film feels like it largely consists of angry men in suits getting in and out of cars. Sometimes they open the door themselves. Other times, someone else does, usually an anonymous lackey or subordinate. Sometimes it is a fancy car. Sometimes it is an SUV. It could be during the day. It could be at night.
I think you get the point.
These scenes are usually interspersed with said men shouting at each other. Sometimes they are standing up. Sometimes they are sitting down yadda yadda yadda. With all this misplaced testosterone, the lack of women becomes distinctly noticeable – there are maybe a total of three of them with any dialogue in the whole film: one’s a waitress, one’s a prostitute, and the other one just looks pretty and screams.
By far the most interesting characters are the police force, and the behind-the-scenes corruption and string-pulling trying to play off the rival gangs against each other is where the film is strongest. The interplay between the manipulative self-regarding Detective Kataoka (Fumiyo Kohinata) and the stoic upstanding Detective Shigeta (Yutaka Matsuhige) is also where the humorous streak that runs through Outrage Beyond is most pronounced. There are some darkly comic moments elsewhere, usually involving a couple of nasty bits of violence, brief flashes of excitement and interest in otherwise prosaic proceedings.
If Kitano fancies just making more Outrage films, rather than coming up with a whole new set of characters every time he wants to make a gangster film, then I don’t have a problem with that, but hopefully next time round he has a bit more to say and a more inventive story to tell.