Archive for Japanese

Outrage

Directed by: Takeshi Kitano(Beat Takeshi)

Written by: Takeshi Kitano

Produced by: Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida

Starring:  Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Tomokazu Miura, Jun Kunimura,  Tetta Sugimoto, Takashi Tsukamoto

Language:  Japanese with English subtitles

Run Time: 109 minutes

 

Finally Beat Takeshi has returned, much to the excitement of his fans, to the dark and shadowy world of the Yakuza in his latest film Outrage.  This isn’t your typical Yakuza film where the characters are disciplined, classy and somewhat respectable; instead, Outrage is a louder movie where the characters lack all subtlety, are cold and embrace their inner asshole (the way Takeshi says asshole is one of his trademarks).  Outrage experiments with a different sort of style where there isn’t a single protagonist but a group of villains selfishly misleading each other in order take control of the wealth that organized crime has offer.

 

Outrage does a lot of things well, such as the photography or some of the creativity in the way the characters are killed, but does some things extremely badly.  For instance, there doesn’t seem to be a coherent plot due to the fact that there is no main character.   At some points it seems like more of a soap opera geared towards men where one sneaky man pulls the strings of other characters much in the same way a cunning woman character would; using a manly version of that he said she said type of manipulation.

 

Now that the main problem with the movie is covered we can get into all of the good parts like the violence.  Everybody knows that gangsters are supposed to be extremely ruthless and the characters reflect that as they act more like psychopaths without remorse than productive members of society.  The lack of human decency leads to some very innovative ways for the characters to maim and kill each other.  Some of the action is cold, some of it makes you cringe, and some of it leaves appreciating the ability of Takeshi to do hurt people in creative ways.

 

The acting is superb and there’re a lot of familiar faces in the cast.  Jun Kunimura has appeared in close to 100 films and TV shows including Kill Bill vol 1, Ichi the Killer and Audition.  Musase is played by Renji Ishibashi who also had a role in Audition, Dead or Alive and over 200 other roles.  When listing actors in the film, you can’t forget to mention Beat Takeshi who’s stared and directed in many of his own films and television shows.  In fact all of the actors have quite a long resume which isn’t surprising since all of the characters are fun to watch, especially some of their facial expressions.

 

Outrage is a hit or miss film, it’s a hit if you like Japanese gangsters and gratuitous violence but a miss if you want a movie with a deep plot and likeable characters.  Sometimes it’s best to sit back and enjoy the show and that’s exactly what Outrage is good for.  It’s violent, silly, has big stars and there’s no excuse for Takeshi fans to miss it.

 

(6/10)

13 Assassins

 

13 Assassins

Directed by: Takashi Miike

Written by: Kaneo Ikegami (based on a screenplay by), Daisuke Tengan (screenplay)

Produced by: Minami Ichikawa, Tôichirô Shiraishi, Michihiko Yanagisawa

Starring: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yûsuke Iseya, Gorô Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijiro Hira

Language:  Japanese with English subtitles

Run Time: 141 minutes

 

Director Takashi Miike (Audition, One Missed Call) explains, “Sword-fighting scenes are about LOVE. Without brotherly love, we could not shoot such violent sword-fighting scenes.”  If violence represents love than 13 Assassins is one of the most romantic and loving films made in the last few years; a chick flick if you will, filled with not only blood but with strong male characters, intelligent dialog and ruthless antagonist.   Well, maybe 13 Assassins isn’t really a movie about romance and lacks all of those warm, friendly moments that make up most modern day action movies but is that really a bad thing?   Picture this: a handsome rebel who does some sort of dangerous work meets a beautiful woman in need.  Sound familiar?  That’s the plot to almost every action movie that’s been released in the last few years and it’s exactly the opposite of what we see in 13 Assassins.

 

13 Assassins chronicles a suicide mission where a small group of samurai plot to kill a corrupt, brutal member of Japans ruling class who is in line to become the next Shogun.  While the basic idea sounds simple, it’s the execution that makes the movie shine.  The main characters, good and evil, have deep philosophical ideals behind their actions which are rooted deeply with what it means to be a samurai.  13 Assassins showcases a mix of drama, subtle conflict, and of course, extreme violence much in the same ways that have characterized Miike’s previous films.

 

Almost everything about the film’s production is done well aside from a few aspects with bad cgi effects and a few over the top visuals.    The sets are beautiful and authentic with a great deal of attention to detail.  The music enhances and meshes with the story as do most of the sound effects.  While most of the cinematic details are brilliant there are still some flaws, such as extreme close ups during battle scenes which throw the viewer off a bit(since that usually means the actors can’t really do the more intense action scenes) but all of that can be forgiven when the sheer volume of work that went into the choreography.

 

13 Assassins fills the void left behind by the swarms of those cookie cutter action movies that are produced by untalented Hollywood writers.  America needs is a different kind of action movie, one that’s raw, dark, where the characters aren’t handsome charming womanizers but actually have depth and believe in something.  In the end 13 Assassins is a brilliant action film but be warned, the action scenes are extremely long so if you’re not into action than it may be best to skip this film.  This movie is a must for fans of Miike’s work, fans of samurai movies and people who are tired of watching common stylized action films.  13 Assassins is indeed an action movie made with love; the love of the actors, directors, producers and everyone else involved in the production of the movie.  13 Assassins will be part of the San Francisco International Film Festival so be sure to take the chance to see it on a big screen.

 

(7.5/10)