Critics pan another Netflix movie that audiences love but The Outsider is a genuine throwback to old school gangster movies and should be treated as such.
Let’s clear the air right up front guys and dolls. Do we like Jared Leto? Honestly, he’s hit and miss. Are we getting a little burned out from sci-fi and comic book movies? Not really, but a breather every now and then is nice. Is Netflix approving every idea no matter how good or bad to hit their absurd production estimate? Yep, for sure.
Now here’s how The Outsider answers all of those questions.
The Outsider is a slick, traditional gangster flick that gets straight to the point. No bogged down history. No insane CGI. Just an intriguing story about an American P.O.W. finding a family in the unlikeliest of places in the Yakuza crime outfit.
In fact, there’s barely a hint that it’s set in 1954. And that works for it. The only two things that let you know you aren’t in 2018 are the cars and the absence of cell phones. You get to focus on the characters and how they play off of each other. It’s pretty refreshing.
The movie also nails the perfect amount of dialogue, silence and action in a way that hasn’t been done in what feels like years. Beautiful establishing shots are also interwoven between scenes highlighted by minimal narration. The impact of the action scenes are made all the better with this method. Director Martin Pieter Zandvliet truly does a superb job with The Outsider.
Jared Leto: Hit!
Jared Leto is a mystery. Sometimes, he’s getting the ever butt lovin’ monkey snot beat out of him in Fight Club. His Paul Allen in American Psycho gets the axe from Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman (which he seems to have channeled for this role). Then he unconvincingly plays Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27. After that, he absolutely crushes a transgender woman in Dallas Buyers Club and even scores an Oscar! Following that role, he gets a little too big for his britches as Joker in Suicide Squad and was left in Hollywood limbo for some time.
But now he’s back in an absolutely mesmerising role as P.O.W. Nick in The Outsider. Set in 1954 Osaka, Nick finds himself saving a fellow inmate’s life after a group of men hang him from a noose and make it look like he tried to take his own life. A Suicide Squad, if you will. (You know you laughed.)
Anyway, as a reward, the man, Kiyoshi, offers him a way out of prison with the help of his Yakuza brothers. We follow Nick as he gains favour with the Yakuza by getting his hands dirty when they don’t want to. Win win for everyone.
Leto plays the role as straight up as you can get and it’s refreshing. It’s evident Leto gave him a badass origin with the rigid way he carries himself. Couple that with his clenched monotone acme anvil voice and you get the impression that there’s a rage inside of Nick bubbling just under the surface. If you push his buttons just right, by calling him a ‘cute little kitten’ for example, you just may get a bottle of sake to the face.
Welcome to Villains Inc. owned by Yakuza LLC. There are no goodniks abound here from P.O.W. Nick, all the way down to the two faced baddie, Orochi, played by Kippei Shina. The movie doesn’t even end well for the lesser of two evils. As it should. If you want a realistic gangster movie, The Outsider plays it to the bone.
And these guys know how to play bad well. The predominantly Japanese cast has you hooked from jump street. The aforementioned Kiyoshi, played by Tadanobu Asano, adopts Leto’s Nick like an older brother would. The bond of saving someone’s life in prison (not that I would know. Or do I?) reflects in the sincerity Asano brings to the role.
The whole Seizu clan, who are out to absorb Kiyoshi’s Shiromatsu family by any means, also makes for formidable opponents. They’re taunting and constant sabotage is enough to drive anyone mad. So much so that the Shiromatsu Family head Akihiro, played by Min Tanaka, confronts them out in the open like an old school gunslinger. His steel cold Eastwood-esque no nonsense take on the character really encompasses what it must be like to be the head of the Yakuza.
So don’t expect any miracle saviors here. No one gets out unscathed. The bad guys are all ya got and they’re all ya need.
Netflix Brought the Heat and Delivers
As we saw with Bright not too long ago, critics gave negative reviews galore even though it was a not so bad movie. According to Imdb and Rotten Tomatoes, such is the case with The Outsider. It isn’t exactly evident why that is. Had this movie been released in the late 80s or 90s this would’ve killed at the box office. Have critics gotten too soft? Maybe, but that’s an article for future, ‘old man yelling at the sky’ version of me.
All in all The Outsider isn’t as bad as The Cloverfield Paradox or Mute and not as good as Mudbound. It hits the right notes as the film it was made to be: a simple story, in a simple time with a simple premise. It’s a nice deviation from what can become dull over an extended period of time.
What’s more is the Japan-a-tainment is absolutely immersive. One cool scene explains the meaning of the Daisho katanas, something that many avid anime watchers may already be familiar with and something that was touched upon in the Ready Player One novel. Another scene explains the myth of a Koi fish swimming upstream and becoming an arrogant dragon.
Much of the film is also in Japanese, which came from the depths of the ancient earth. It’s true, trust me. Don’t google it and betray your Yakuza (writing) brother.