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  • Writer's pictureRobin Syversen


Updated: Jun 3, 2023

Takeshi Kitano's Ultra-Violent Study of Yakuza Politics

Director: Takeshi Kitano

Cast: Beat Takeshi, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Tomokazu Miura, Jun Kunimura, Tetta Sugimoto

Related films: Sonatine, Battles Without Honor and Humanity, Rusty Knife

Studio: Office Kitano

Year: 2010

Verdict: 5/6


Introducing Outrage (2010)

Outrage paints a grim picture from behind the curtains of the yakuza organizations. If it has any root in reality, then it's a frightening image indeed. The combination of über-violent action and slick power plays make it feel like a political thriller infused with the antics of Quentin Tarantino. But the mastermind behind Outrage was none other than Beat Takeshi.

Throughout the 90s, Kitano delivered various takes on the yakuza genre, from ruthless brutality to arthouse experimentation. As expected of yakuza films, Outrage provides some very graphic sequences, but it also offers a fresh approach to the yakuza genre. This time it is all about the politics within the world of the Japanese mafia.

As such, Kitano strips the yakuza genre of romanticism and sentimentality. Instead, he presents a narrative where honor is less a virtue and more a chess piece in a savage power game. The yakuza in Outrage are neither heroes nor anti-heroes but players in a ruthless game of survival, their actions motivated by the pursuit of power rather than moral codes.

A Brief History of Japan's Modern-Day Yakuza

The Yakuza syndicates are intricate tapestries woven from threads of honor, tradition, violence, and crime. They embody paradoxical concepts, such as criminal nobility, and are often depicted as entities existing beyond the scope of ordinary morality.

The heyday of Japanese crime syndicates arguably came to an end in 1992 when new laws were implemented to dismantle organized crime in Japan permanently. While the yakuza still persist, the days of black-clad criminals going on killing sprees are now relics of a bygone era.

However, Japan faced a new adversary: the rise of the "economic yakuza." The stringent laws compelled the syndicates to adapt and become more sophisticated. This led to a shift in their modus operandi, emphasizing conducting business openly and integrating themselves shrewdly into local economies.

On the surface, it appeared that the yakuza had been decriminalized, but behind the scenes, they introduced a new level of pressure and intimidation tactics that permeated other societal strata.

Kitano's Outrageous Plot

Decriminalized is a foreign word in Outrage, however. The audience is thrown into a world of brutality, drug business, and criminal strategy. The tone is set in the first scenes when all of Tokyo's yakuza bosses gather for a meeting. The syndicate members' and servants' behavior brings to mind hierarchies in classic samurai movies.

The story is spun into motion when the highest-ranking yakuza leader orders a stop to the collaboration between two smaller yakuza families. This, in turn, leads to the killing of a yakuza member, who, like a blood-dripping domino piece, sets in motion an endless stream of violence and bloodshed.

In this visceral universe, Kitano orchestrates a symphony of brutal power dynamics, betrayals, and cold-blooded calculations within the Japanese yakuza. In addition, he dons the role of 'Otomo,' a henchman who navigates the perilous landscape of Japan's criminal underworld.

Slicing Open the Themes in Outrage

Whether the yakuza really became white-collar criminals, or kept their ruthless conduct behind closed doors, is left for our curious minds to imagine. Or we can let Kitano do it for us.

In large part, Outrage pays homage to the hard-boiled yakuza mythology. The crime syndicates of the new millennium are portrayed as harder, tougher, and colder than ever. The atmosphere is convincingly realistic and frightfully chilling.

Each character is meticulously developed to represent facets of the complex Yakuza hierarchy. For example, the rivaling yakuza bosses, Ikemoto and Murase, are human embodiments of treachery and ambition, their actions driven by self-interest, not honor.

Kitano's performance as Otomo is a masterstroke, his stern exterior only occasionally hinting at the turmoil beneath. Otomo stands as a symbol of the old guard's loyalty and stoicism, trapped in a modern game he can't keep up with.

Ryo Kase as Ishihara also stands out, delivering a performance that effortlessly swings between menace and opportunistic ambition. These compelling performances deepen the film's impact, painting a stark portrait of the yakuza's internal dynamics.

Some have criticized Outrage for being dehumanized, with characters that are not relatable. Such critique seems to have missed the point of the film.

Outrage is not about character development or the emotional aspect of being a yakuza. It is all about the politics of yakuza families and how it might conceivably be conducted. As such, Outrage succeeds in depicting the inner workings of yakuza hierarchies.

Hushed Whispers of Regret | Outrage Analysis

In the heart of the ruthless Yakuza underworld, Outrage reveals a message shrouded in darkness and intrigue. Beneath its brutal façade lies a poignant exploration of human nature and the insidious consequences of unchecked ambition.

Amidst the clashing egos and blood-soaked rivalries, Kitano's message pulsates like a hidden heartbeat, urging the audience to reflect upon the fragility of honor and the price one pays for power.

Outrage shrewdly reveals the seductive allure of dominance, enticing its characters with the promise of wealth and respect. Yet, as the narrative unfurls, the audience witnesses the gradual erosion of loyalty, honor, and even humanity itself.

The message lies in the futility of such pursuits, in the hollowness that awaits those who sacrifice integrity for temporary gains. It is a stark reminder that the quest for power often leads down a treacherous path, where trust is fleeting, and alliances are as fragile as glass.

In its unflinching portrayal of violence, Outrage holds up a mirror to the human condition. It forces us to confront our own capacity for cruelty and the destructive consequences of our actions. The bloodshed is not glamorized but rather presented as a stark reminder of the inherent darkness that lurks within us.

Ultimately, the message of Outrage lies in the hushed whispers of regret, the shattered illusions of those blinded by ambition. It reminds us that the true power lies not in dominance but in the preservation of our humanity, in the choices we make, and the values we hold dear.

The Making of Outrage (2010)

This action-packed extravaganza might still have allure for fans of Kitano's art house films. With deliberate camera movements, much static filming, and a minimalistic soundtrack, Outrage remains true to Kitano's artistic sensibilities.

Along with cinematographer Katsumi Yanagishima, Kitano let the camera acts as an objective observer, its passive gaze mirroring the cold indifference of the Yakuza world. The understated color palette reinforces the grim reality of the narrative, creating an ambiance of dread and unpredictability.

Kitano masterfully employs silence, stillness, and passive framing to create tension, often setting the stage for explosive, dramatic scenes. His camera, neither intrusive nor voyeuristic, captures the brutal reality of Yakuza life, lending an atmospheric depth to his storytelling.

Furthermore, Outrage deviates from linear storytelling, opting instead for a web of subplots that mirror the complex machinations of the yakuza. Violence is cleverly applied as a storytelling tool to advance the plot, develop characters, and highlight themes. Each brutality links a chain of cause and effect, driving the narrative forward.

Far from gratuitous, the violence in Outrage is integral to Kitano's cinematic message. Characters are tied not by loyalty but by a network of obligations, betrayals, and vengeance, painting a convincing picture of an intricate criminal ecosystem.

Yoshiyuki Koike's rhythmic editing style further enhances the atmosphere by effectively juxtaposing scenes of stoic dialogue with sudden bouts of violence. As such, the editing mirrors the cause-and-effect narrative structure, building and releasing tension in a relentless cycle.

Final Verdict for Outrage (2010)

Remembering Kitano's early yakuza films, yours truly was caught off-guard by the proficient filmmaking in Outrage. Cheap thrills and ultra-violence were expected and indeed delivered. The captivating sleek production qualities, coupled with a thoroughly gripping, in-depth view of the intricacies of yakuza politics, was a pleasant surprise.

Regrettably, Outrage fell victim to deceptive marketing campaigns, obscuring its true essence. Thrust onto the international stage for its heart-stopping suspense and jolting brutality, the film's profound narrative elements were unjustly downplayed. While undeniably brutal, it is also masterfully crafted and thought-provoking.

Don't believe any bad-mouthing you might come across about this film. Outrage holds immense appeal for both mafia film enthusiasts and fans of Japanese action, as well as anyone interested in Japanese cinema. It confidently stands alongside Kitano's finest works like Hana-bi (1997), Dolls (2002), and Zatoichi (2003).


Outrage is grainy in some places and overexposed in others. Even so, the Blu-ray version is the way to go. Given the topic matter, a little grit goes hand in hand with the content. You will hardly find a sharper image anywhere in the yakuza genre (pun intended).

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1 Comment

Bill Makatowicz
Bill Makatowicz
Jul 09, 2019

I bought this one now. Seems pretty interesting!

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