Here, a member of one crime syndicate unknowingly attempts to rip off a member of the other crime syndicate, via fleecing his nightclub bill. The insult eventually escalates to an all-out war as each side takes its turn exacting revenge, from several sacrificial fingers and a purposely botched act of dentistry to the most cruel rope trick I’ve ever seen onscreen.
Admittedly, with so many yakuza characters populating each side of the turf — and virtually no introduction to them — Outrage is challenging in trying to keep track of who is who. However, that’s intentional on Kitano’s part; these people act as part of a greater whole, like one leg of a giant octopus.
The joy is not in learning their backgrounds — not that you’re given any — but in watching them lob grenades, sometimes literally, at the other side. What will they do next to one-up the other family, and will they ever stop to see how silly and insignificant the spark was? The answer to the latter is “no,” of course; Japan is the country of saving face, where pride is everything.
The underworld and Japan itself both emerge from Outrage with palpable flavors, as if this story couldn’t be told anywhere else. And it couldn’t. While crime and revenge are universal, the methods of madness on display here are distinctly Far East. Some viewers may find that inaccessible, but I find it a fascinating two-hour dip into another culture, from one of that continent’s finest filmmakers. —Rod Lott