The camera glides past a line of yakuza in impeccable black suits, the stoic middle managers of Japan's organized crime families. These gangsters stand patiently outside of a restaurant while the bigwigs break bread with the chairman. One of the high-level mobsters, Ikemoto (Kunimura), had struck a side deal with a rival clan's boss (Ishibashi); this doesn't sit well with his own syndicate's head honcho. So Ikemoto orders his top lieutenant, Otomo (writer-director Kitano), to muscle in on the other family's turf, just enough to help everyone save face. The good soldier reluctantly consents. Viewers would be wise to savor these initial moments of calm; from here on in, this brutal crime thriller brings the pain. Pistols will be fired and pinkies will be sliced off, naturally. Some nasty encounters involving, respectively, a dentist drill, chopsticks and a rope tied to a highway pillar only emphasize that, when it comes to violence, the yakuza can be mighty outrageous.
As can the veteran J-filmmaker, who stages these grotesque set pieces with his trademark deadpan style; not even Michael Mann merges hot tempers and cool formalism this well. But though fans may embrace the fact that "Beat" Takeshi has returned to crime flicks after some odd directorial wanderings, they may wonder what happened to the Kitano who'd modernized---and revolutionized---the Japanese gangster film in peerless works such Sonatine (1993) and Fireworks (1997). At its best, Outrage offers a meat-and-potatoes look at an age when battles of honor and humanity are AWOL in yakuza society. As things wind toward the inevitable hierarchical breakdown, however, the movie too often resembles a repetitive cycle of tough guys shouting, shooting and shuffling off this mortal coil.
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