Takashi Miike is known for making a plethora of Yakuza movies, and Deadly Outlaw Rekka proves this is a subject he has finely tuned and honed. The story is fairly simple, but the actors and Miike’s distinctive style really make it stand out from normal yakuza films. Some of the violence here is among Miike’s most stylish. It is a Miike film so you know the plot is anything but complicated. When Kunisada’s mob boss is murdered Kunisada wants revenge but his gang wants to call a truce to prevent an all out war. Kunisada is angered by their cowardly actions and back stabbings so he just goes ballistic and kills the hell out of everybody.
The ending is fifty-percent brilliant and fifty-percent absurdly irritating; an artist as intelligent and imaginative as Miike could no doubt have come up with something equally as “weird” but without betraying everything that comes before it. Clocking in at just over 90 minutes, it’s almost wall-to-wall action. Some of Miike’s yakuza films tend to run a bit longer with slower character development, but this is not the case. I can easily recommend Deadly Outlaw to any fans of the Dead or Alive series, and probably to any Miike fan in general. However, what I liked about the film was how Kunisada also delivers an air of sardonic wit in the film as well.
Things are complicated when Kunisada and his best friend pick up a pair of girls who end up turning into sidekicks, which doesn’t make anyone too happy, especially their manager. You never see anything in this film coming, as it is completely void of any predictability especially if you are unfamiliar with any of Miike’s other works. And theres an unexpected lyrical slo-mo aftermath to the gorefest, when a woman whos witnessed the massacre rather recklessly comforts the blood-spattered Kunisada who still has steam coming out of his nose and ears.
The way that this movie is different is that the feel is a little more intense and modern than his previous efforts. The visuals and camera-work are comparatively better and do a much better job of grabbing your attention. Is it a good film? I would say so, but it still is a long way from greatness. I like the closure that was achieved through showing this character one last time. In the end, Rekka works so well as a movie because Miike restrains the child within him eager to shock and impress and embraces the dramatist who observes the small moments of life. It’s more traditional than one might expect, but still highly recommended.