If a balls-out, no-holds-barred, raw and raunchy crime flick doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, you can stop reading right here. How many of us are left? Good. So, for the rest of us, Kinji Fukasaku crafts another typical yet hugely entertaining slice of yakuza action. If you have seen any number of his films from the early 70’s, you’ll be treading very familiar territory with Outlaw Killers. It’s another take on the typical “yakuza foot-soldier is released after doing time in prison for a hit on an enemy gang and finds it hard to adjust to the new conditions; hilarity ensues” plot. However despite the lack of originality, Fukasaku makes up for it with a breakneck pace and hard-boiled grittiness. Every other minute someone gets beaten, blackmailed, robbed, raped, stabbed, beaten some more, beaten with a crowbar and generally brutalized in all sorts of manners. Never a dull moment. What kicks things up a notch is Fukasaku’s trademark style. All the hand-held shots and dutch angles might seem arbitrary to the uninitiated, but we’re talking about a master director at work here; you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who can place you right in the middle of the action better than he does. The “messy”, anarchic look of it all is just a different form of stylization, yet it’s obvious it suits the material like a glove. Every fight has a vibrant, palpable feel to it. You can almost taste the salty blood on your lips. He has a great ally of course in a cast full of familiar faces, spearheaded by the ever reliable Bunta Sugawara. Most of the actors appearing in Japanese films are great physical actors and this ensemble is no exception. Overall, Outlaw Killers is by no means a subtle, sophisticated film. No, it’s rough and gritty and personally I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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