It’s always nice to find current movies I really like; thus, I welcome, with open arms, the latest offering from Japan’s auteur, Takeshi Kitano (aka Beat Kitano), 2017’s OUTRAGE CODA, now on Blu-Ray from the eclectic folks at Film Movement.
Beat, who stars, directed, wrote and edited this masterful look at old school gangsterism vs. new dotcom thuggery (it’s also co-released through his company Office Kitano), is in top form as Otomo, a retired yakuza, now idling his time in South Korea. He spends his days fishing with longtime “associate” Ichikawa (Nao Omori). They mirthfully recount the days of yore, nostalgically reliving their favorite killings, an anecdotal habit that reveals what a genial sociopath Otomo truly is. This, at once, spills over into pure psychopathy when the aggravated retiree, tired of waiting for his bait to yield results, repeatedly fires his pistol into the sea.
This “tranquil” moment, one of the few in CODA, is terminated when Otomo is called back into action to settle a dispute with Maruyama (Taizo Harada), a visiting hothead scumbag from a rival clan. He has abused several high-priced hookers for not thrilling him enough, and refuses to pay. Otomo and Ichikawa lay down the law, further accentuated by Maruyama’s people, looking to use the schmuck-john as an excuse to show their good faith (rather severely, as the bastard ends up dead), a failed effort of demonstrating that all clans must work together. As mob murder tends to do, the incident has a negative chain-reaction effect, and begins an all-out gang-war. Otomo, now caught in the middle, but fiercely devoted to his boss, revered kingpin Mr. Chang (Tokio Keneda), journeys to Japan to finish what promises to be bloodbath return to the “good old days.” And, alas, it is.
The wonderful parallels between the classic criminal code vs. the nouveau riche mobsters (the head of the rival clan is a renowned businessman, and investment banker) see-saw from often humorous to freakishly revolting. With deceit, vengeance, assassination, treachery and conspiracy up the wazoo, OUTRAGE CODA grips its viewers from frame one.
While the picture doesn’t display the often horrible poetic beauty of Hanabi, it does weave a relentless ethical tapestry that unmasks the uselessness of billions in cash without trust.
Otomo is no mere yakuza hitman – while a traditional “fixer,” he’s also modern underworld samurai, who, regardless of personal feelings, will never waiver from his dedication to Mr. Chang, a selfless act that ends this morality play on a somber, but riveting note.
The revenge tactics are brilliant, particularly on how to deal with asshole CEOs who think they’re all that (it doesn’t hurt that the main creep, noted thespian Ren Osugi, bears more than a striking resemblance to Wayne LaPierre with a swatch of Steve Mnuchin).
As usual, Beat utilizes locations magnificently (big thumbs up to cinematographer Katsumi Yanagishima for his exquisite widescreen compositions), stages large-scale action sequences like a Mephistophelian ballet and addresses human relationships with finesse and (astoundingly) even poignancy (the cast, also featuring Pierre Taki, Toshiyuki Nishida, Sansei Shiomi, Tatsuo Nadaka and Ken Mitsuishi is exceptional). Think Sam Peckinpah crossed with Robert Aldrich, Fritz Lang, plus a liberal dose of Douglas Sirk and Vincente Minnelli. I know, that PFFOOSH is the sound of your head exploding.
The Film Movement Blu-Ray of OUTRAGE CODA is terrific, popping with neon colors (especially impressive in the nighttime segments) and 1080p High Definition clarity. The 5.1 surround score will reverberate all over your media room as the bullets fly, while concurrently presenting the strains of Keiichi Suzuki’s award-winning score most effectively. A number of cool extras grace this platter, including a “Making of” documentary and a gallery of Beat trailers.
A violent and fascinating take on Japanese culture mixed with Machiavellian politics and Shakespearean drama, OUTRAGE CODA should delight fans of Asian cinema, Beat Takeshi and all things gangsta. It presents a bravura, entertaining (if not somewhat disturbing) cutting-edge road map to successful contemporary movie-making.
OUTRAGE CODA. Color. Widescreen [2.40:1 1080p High Definition]; 5.1 DTS-HD MA [Japanese w/English subtitles]. Film Movement/Warner Brothers Japan/Tohokushinsha Film Corporation/Office Kitano. CAT # OUTRAGECODABLU-RAY. SRP: $34.95.