In Takeshi Kitano's Outrage, we sat through some heavy plotting and counter-schemes where every one, a collective of Yakuzas and gangsters, is a bad guy, fighting over power and control when being unwittingly manipulated, together with shifting alliances. The story was pretty brilliant then, since you're really unsure how the concocted plans would turn out, suffice to say it boiled down to very violent affairs, with plenty of firearm action all round.
But Kitano kept his direction well balanced then, as he does so again now, with dramatic scenes happening in the first half of the film, followed by a build up to various violent crescendos in the latter half. We continue where we last left off, where the victors of the first film's schemes, Kato (Tomokazu Miura) and the Otomo Clan turncoat Ishihara (Ryo Kase) return to the top of the food chain, grabbing control over the Sanno-kai crime organization, although not without their detractors from within who will jump at every seductive, suggested opportunity to usurp the throne. It didn't help that their leadership style, parallel to some real world techniques of cost cutting stinginess, doesn't cut it through the rank and file.
And you just can't put a good man down, or a bad man in this case, with Beat Takeshi's Otomo returning to the mayhem as orchestrated by Detective Kataoka (Fumiyo Kohinata). Wait a minute, didn't we witness his key scene in the finale of Outrage? I suppose if one is at the creative helm of the film - directing, writing and editing - then anything's possible. Otomo, as it turns out, is still sitting pretty in prison, but has his enemies quaking in their shoes when rumours got squashed, and Kataoka accelerates Otomo's parole to get him released and back in the fray. With preference for a lowly life amongst the hood, it is genre mantra that one never walks away, but gets pulled back into the hustle and bustle of vengeance and violence.
Between the two films, perhaps I will have to throw my hat of preference over to the first one, if only for a plot that involved a lot more stakeholders, and on screen violence that was more balletic than this follow up's rather tame, and usually off-screen mayhem. Sometimes we get to see flashes from muzzles, compensated by the awesomely rendered loud sounds of multiple rounds leaving the chamber of the gun. And stylistically, which is a fair counter- point to the explicitness of what Hollywood does today, we find ourselves staring down barrels of guns on screen, before cutting to the aftermath.
When put together, while the films touches on tit-for-tat revenge, and perhaps contain a shade of real world organizational politics given the structure of the Yakuza, not only do we get to compare leadership styles and skills of those at the top, but rather how one should be aware of the little man running around, stirring trouble only for personal benefit. Fumiyo Kohinata steals the show each time he comes on screen as the corrupt Detective Kataoka, on the payroll of the force and striving to go up in his career ladder, while on the take from the clans, yet at the same time scheming against all to advance his personal agenda at both sides of the law.
I had nothing but chuckles especially during an interrogation scene which Kataoka engineers, which probably cuts a little close to home given the series of gaffes in high profile court cases that didn't quite put the Home Team in good light. And characters like Kataoka, are not hard to imagine nor stranger than fiction. His opposite would be the ramrod straight Shigeta, who for all his righteousness, couldn't influence the corruption going on in his face, as executed in arrogant style by his counterpart. It's really Kataoka's show from the get go, being the key character, and catalyst in almost all twists and turns, with Fumiyo Kohinata being the quintessential villain amongst all villains here.