Review: The Outsider

The Outsider
6 10

PLOT: An ex-American serviceman (Jared Leto) being held in a Japanese prison several years after the end of WW2, saves the life of a Yakuza gangster (Tadanobu Asano) and upon his release is invited to join their ranks.

REVIEW: It’s weird how Netflix movies just seem to drop out of nowhere these days. I’d heard rumblings about Jared Leto doing a Yukuza movie for a while, but up until a few weeks ago, I had no idea that film had actually already been shot and was due to be released on Netflix right away. A hot property, this was originally meant for Michael Fassbender and director Daniel Espinosa, before (briefly) being set up as a Takeshi Miike/Tom Hardy team-up.

Leto, who as of late has been specializing as a supporting actor following his DALLAS BUYERS CLUB Oscar win, plays a rare lead here as our mysterious anti-hero. Committed as always, for much of the first half of the film Leto looks disturbingly thin (although a brief shirtless scene shows he’s actually just super lean), before seeming to fill out a bit as it goes on. Much of the movie is in Japanese, although Leto himself only occasionally speaks that language, with his character supposed to only kind-of understand the language and have a few words he picked up at his disposal.

Directed by LAND OF MINE’s Martin Zandvliet, this is a much more serious, slow film than Miike (probably) would have directed, and not unlike Japanese Yakuza films by people like Beat Takeshi. It’s not the action film the stylish posters and images of Leto holding a sword are selling it as. It’s more of a serious drama with occasional bursts of unpredictable, grisly violence.

Like a lot of other Netflix films, THE OUTSIDER doesn’t quite make the grade as a legitimate movie. It feels like a telefilm, or rather an extended pilot for a series, with the decision to include a very TV-like opening credit sequence not helping matters. It’s shot wide, in 2:35:1, and production values are good, but the pacing is glacial, and the action scenes lack any impact (despite some good gore). However, Netflix and Zandvliet deserve props for making a good chunk of the film (I’d say around 40%) Japanese, although co-star Tadanobu Asano’s English is pretty fluent, as is Shiori Kutsuna as Leto’s love interest. American co-stars are limited to two cameos, one by Rory Cochrane as a racist bureaucrat involved with the Yakuza, and another by Emile Hirsch as a military captain.

Given the premise and the always intriguing Yakuza sub-genre, I must admit I was hoping for more from THE OUTSIDER, but this lacks the kinetic energy of other East meets West gangster tales like BLACK RAIN or THE YAKUZA. I suppose Zandvliet was trying to make a serious, artistic film, but maybe a liberal dose of pulp might have made the whole thing a bit more palatable. It’s still worth watching, as Leto’s performance is excellent, as is Asano’s, and there are a few interesting scenes (including the yubitsume ritual where offenders cut off their fingers to atone for misdeeds). Still, it’s not the slam dunk you’d think it was given the heat on the script when the package was being assembled.

Source: JoBlo.com



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