“So while (the narrative) doesn’t reach the level of its predecessors, it is still a worthy conclusion of this trilogy full of pessimism and nihilism.”
Takeshi Kitano finally returns to finish the ensemble narrative he started with Outrage (2010) and Outrage Beyond (2012). With Outrage Coda Takeshi Beat offers us one final change to enter the cold, unlikable and pessimistic world of the gokudōsha. Is this narrative a worthy final to the series – or should Kitano offer us his pinky? Let’s find out in our review.
Five years after the violent war between the Sanno-kai and Hanabishi-kai, former yakuza boss Otomo (Takeshi Kitano) is still alive and kicking. Having left Japan for South-Korea, he now works for renowned fixer Mr. Chang (Tokio Kaneda). One day, Otomo is summoned to solve an incident between Hanada (Pierre Taki), a Hanabishi-kai yakuza, and some ‘unwilling’ hookers working for his boss’ business. Besides resulting in the death of Ko Seong-Jin, a member of Otomo’s troupe, this seemingly small incident awakens family rivalries within the Hanabishi-kai. And when these rivalries put Chang’s life into danger, Otomo sees no other choice than to return to Japan and settle things once and for all.
Outrage Coda is – just like its predecessors – mainly a voyeuristic trip through the private spaces of the gokudōsha, a measured exploration evoking the structural impossibility of a hierarchical system that is inherently marked by distrust and by old as well as new rivalries. What Outrage Coda thus reasserts is that the loyalty based hierarchical structure of the gokudōsha is but a superficial structure, a structure hiding a calculated world of set-ups, bribing, and secret promises (Narra-note 1). The subtle bankruptcy of the current corporate constellation of the Hanabishi-kai is already made evident by the central function profit has in measuring one’s worth for the main-family. This over-reliance on money, as is subtly pointed out, erodes authority as such – Nomura (Ren Osugi) exerts power without any authority, and puts the traditional code of the yakuza under pressure. Outrage Coda, just like its predecessors did, puts the concept of ‘loyalty’ or ‘giri’ into question (Narra-note 2).
In other words, the hierarchical system that the Outrage Trilogy paints is a system that, when all is said and done, does not ‘work’. It is nothing more than an unstable bureaucratic system that ever produces, while on the path of destruction, its own violent reconstruction (Narra-note 3). A spectator familiar with the two previous narratives thus knows what to expect, making the packaging of the narrative all the more important. Outrage Coda, far from being a bad movie, lacks in this respect. While Outrage (2012) shocked with the abundance of deaths and Outrage Beyond (2012) thrived on tension, Outrage Coda fails to mix those two aspects in the powerful synthesis this narrative should have been.
Despite this failure, Outrage Coda is still an enjoyable narrative, because it stays true to the pessimistic and nihilistic atmosphere established in the previous narratives. In other words, it is still beautiful to see how this cruel and cold place, fueled by frustration, ambition, anger, rivalry, vengeance and retaliation, produces its own destruction. The beauty of destruction is furthermore empowered by the difficulty for the spectator to sympathize with any character (Character-note 1).
Outrage Coda is shot in very much the same way as its predecessors, i.e. full of deliberate camera movement, while retaining a detached distance towards the characters and the way the narrative unfolds. This detachment, just like its predecessors, is most sensible in the way violent acts are framed and presented to the spectator. As Takeshi Kitano’s shots – shots framing the composed and calculated acts of violence – are ever devoid of any true cinematographical decoration, it is very difficult for the spectator to extract any enjoyment out of the portrayal of violence as such. Kitano’s refusal to glorify violence is further underlined by his musical minimalism, his crafting of a narrative space where only dull sounds of gunshots reverberate.
Outrage Coda is an enjoyable narrative but the least accomplished of the trilogy. Outrage Coda is most fun when, just like in its predecessors, the violence starts the inevitable demise of the current constellation of the gokudōsha establishment. And even though this demise has some truly fun and satisfying moments, it lacks the punch and tension its predecessors had. So while Outrage Coda doesn’t reach the level of its predecessors, it is still a worthy conclusion of a trilogy full of pessimism and nihilism.
Narra-note 1: Behind the so-called pacified structure a game of gathering influence and attaining and using power is ever present. All families try to become the main-family and let their boss become the chairman. In psychoanalytical terms, every family-boss tries to become the imaginary phallus of a certain gokudōsha syndicate.
Narra-note 2: The only one believing in the authority this system gives him is the chairman Nomura. His beliefs in the structure and in the position this structure gives him.
Narra-note 3: It is, in other words, a symbolic system – one with a lot of formality – that, due to the problematic preoccupation with one’s ego, will forever produces its own destructive excess.
Character-note 1: Otomo is the paradoxical element within the narrative. He is at the same time the purest Yakuza – with respect to loyalty – as well as the purest antagonism against the hierarchical structure of the gokudōsha. This paradoxical position, this modern version of the ronin, gives Otomo the freedom to exact vengeance in whatever way he likes.