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The Beat is on!

Takeshi Kitano (aka Beat Takeshi), the Japanese director, comedian, singer, actor, editor, screenwriter, author, poet, painter, former video game designer, and architect of a new breed of yakuza, has returned to form. Outrage is a violent, blood-soaked Bad Guy vs. Worse Guy revenge tale of feuding crime organizations. Kitano stars as a ruthless mobster assigned the task of straightening out a rival gang. Needless to say, he does so with great efficiency and an overabundance of psycho-prejudice.

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Outrage is Kitano's first crime picture in over a decade. Kitano was a late-starter who began his directing career at the age of 42, an unthinkable number in youth-oriented Hollywood's terms. The only other director that comes to mind by way of comparison is Robert Altman, who was 43 when he directed his first feature, Countdown. (The James Dean Story and TV movies don't count.)

Kitano came out swinging with three terrific hard-boiled crime dramas: Violent Cop (1989), Boiling Point (1990), and Sonatine (1993). A Scene at the Sea, a romantic drama about a garbage collector willing to sacrifice everything in order so that he may surf, was sandwiched between Boiling and Sonatine. After directing his master class on violence, 1997's Hana-Bi (Fireworks), Kitano settled into several departures from crime that made for an ill-fit. Kikujiro finds Kitano as a grouchy ex-yakuza saddled with a toddler in search of his missing mother. Concession stands stocked insulin to help viewers get through this maudlin misfire.

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One facet of Kitano's physical being appears to have thankfully been thwarted. No longer is there the constant facial twitch to rumple his otherwise deadpan kisser. (Imagine a ticking time-bomb instead of a head parked atop the actor's neck.) Disregarding any helmet laws, Kitano crashed his motorcycle in 1994. The accident left him partially paralyzed and major surgery was needed so that he could regain use of his facial muscles. Time and medication appear to have put an end to Kitano's spams, but not the savage determination the actor summons while executing his various on-screen acts of ruthless revenge.

It's a stunning film to look at with a climactic gang war that will please even the most jaded fans of the genre. Those who tense up at the very thought of a dentist's chair may want to momentarily avert their eyes. Kitano's graphic incisor-invasion makes the drilling Marathon Man's Olivier offers his patients look like a daily brushing.

Outrage is currently playing at Landmark's Ken Cinema.

Reader Rating: Four Stars

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