Deadly Outlaw Rekka Review

Beginning with the shrieking, pounding sound of The Flower Travellin’ Band’s Satori Pt. I and a montage that is probably only bested by Miike’s other incredible montage opening in Dead or Alive, Deadly Outlaw: Rekka announces its intent swiftly and ruthlessly.

The opening also gives us our first glimpse at the film’s lead character Kunisada (Riki Takeuchi) who promptly jumps through what is most likely bullet proof glass and fights off a bunch of guards. Kunisada is, as the voiceover attests to, a wild animal, a dangerous outlaw and a violent anti-hero of almost superhero like capabilities. The fact that Kunisada is played by the wonderful perma-gurning Riki Takeuchi only cements the character as impossible to ignore and hard not to love.

Any fans of contemporary Japanese genre cinema will most probably be familiar with Takeuchi from a number of Yakuza pictures and his memorable performance in the decidely patchy Battle Royale sequel (he was perhaps the sole highlight) but this is probably the biggest chance Takeuchi has really had to shine in a lead performance. Takeuchi clearly relishes the oppurtunity and every second he is on screen he defines the cliché of chewing the scenery. There’s almost no subtly in Takeuchi’s performance but he’s fully aware of where his strengths are and plays to them. Miike too seems well aware and lets Takeuchi run wild, particularly so in a memorable sequence where Kunisada lays waste to a group of men with a crowbar.

The plot of Deadly Outlaw: Rekka is minimal and to go into too much detail would serve little purpose but suffice to say this is a relatively familiar ‘Yakuza gets out of jail’ story but told in an exceptional way with an exceptional lead. Miike’s shooting choices also hugely add to the otherwise familiar story constantly keeping thing fresh and interesting with the mostly successful use of jump cuts, slow-motion and interesting framing choices. One stand out choice is the surprising decision to keep the camera static in a hospital shoot out which adds suspense to a scene that could have simply played as purely bombastic action. Despite the thrilling action and jump cut montages that are often the associations made with Miike he is a skilled filmmaker in many areas and this can also be seen in some quite beautiful slow sequences throughout the film that contrast some of the more gritty fast paced action.

Deadly Outlaw: Rekka is defined though somewhat by the action and this could well be the film’s biggest flaw as any time Takeuchi’s not gurning, Satori’s not blasting on the soundtrack and bullets (or rockets) aren’t flying the film feels a little like it’s treading water. For the most part though Deadly Outlaw: Rekka is sharp and thrilling and ends with an appropriately excessive climax and enigmatic final scene.

A slightly different version of this review was originally posted at HeyUGuys.