Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Deadly Outlaw : Rekka

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

DEADLY OUTLAW : REKKA

6/10

Jitsuroku ando noboru outlaw-den : Rekka* : Japan 2002 : MIIKE Takashi : 96 mins

Its hard to imagine Takashi Miike making a duller movie than Deadly Outlaw : Rekka. Or perhaps the torpor is part of his point: maybe this is what life in the yakuza really is like endless boring conversations on internecine intriguing, interspersed with sudden eruptions of ultra-violence to stop everybody falling asleep. But even Miike in this kind of form loose, sloppy, apparently going through the motions is more watchable than the best work from countless lesser directors.

Unless you yourself are a yazuka, the plot is incomprehensible a watered-down variant on the Ichi the Killer template of a maverick psychopath getting involved in a long-running turf war between two rival companies. But while Ichis loose cannon was pin-up Tadanobu Asano as a preening post-modern dandy, this Deadly Outlaw is made of rather denser material: as Kunisada, Miike veteran Riki Takeuchi is a door-filling bruiser, a bovine cross between Michael Madsen and Elvis on a bad-hair day. Kunisada is hardly the most complex of characters his Korean blood is blamed for his viciously violent temper but he’s a compellingly brutal creation, not least because he provides almost all the movies energy.

Half an hour or so in, just as were starting to lose patience with the wranglings among Kunisadas superiors, he happens across an opposing gang minding their own business in an off-street garage. Making even nimbler use of a tire-iron than Barry Egan managed in Punch-Drunk Love, Kunisada immediately embarks on what can only be called a kill-crazy rampage far from pretty, but an electrifying scene that sees Miike cutting loose as only he knows how. And there’s an unexpected lyrical slo-mo aftermath to the gorefest, when a woman who’s witnessed the massacre rather recklessly comforts the blood-spattered Kunisada who still has steam coming out of his nose and ears.

The remainder of the film follows this pattern: lengthy and talky inactivity redeemed by Miike moments including Kunisada wreaking merry hell when he gets his hands on a rocket-launcher. His attempt to decipher the Mandarin instructions is a comic highlight, as is another yakuzas whimsical decision to walk down the street completely naked though it takes his partner some time to spot this rather glaring state of affairs. And while the action climax is, like too much of whats gone before, rather perfunctory, stick around for Miikes non-event launderette coda, featuring a skilful use of Japanese rock and striking just the right balance between witty audacity and bare-faced movie-geek cheek.

25th February, 2003
(seen 1st February, Pathe Schouwburgplein, Rotterdam Rotterdam Film Festival)

For all the reviews from the Rotterdam Film Festival click here.

* Japanese title translates as “True Story of Ando’s Gang – Legend of Outlaw Fire”

by Neil Young