Thursday, May 3, 2018

Movie Review: THE OUTSIDER (2018) Starring Jared Leto


The Outsider Netflix Poster
Director: Martin Zandvliet
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Starring: Jared Leto, Tadanobu Asano, Kippei Shîna, Shioli Kutsuna, Emile Hirsch, Rory Cochrane
Runtime: 120 min
Rating: TV-MA
Purchasing Links: Watch on Netflix

Read the review after the jump.

The Outsider Movie Image 1


Review by Popa Razvan

Directed by Martin Zandvliet from a script written by Andrew Baldwin, "The Outsider" is the typical story of a white man who is welcomed into a foreign culture and adapts to its rules while also proving essential to a rising conflict. In this case we're talking about Japan and the infamous organized crime group known as the Yakuza. The film was skewered by critics and largely forgotten after its release on Netflix, but since critics are usually unreliable sources, is it really that bad ?

The film is set in 1954 and its protagonist is Nick Lowell (Jared Leto), a former American soldier who, as the film opens, we find residing inside an Osaka prison. When Nick saves a Yakuza member named Kiyoshi (Tadanobu Asano) from certain death, he finds himself released from prison with the help of the Shiromatsu Yakuza clan and recruited into their organization. He quickly becomes a valuable asset, serving the clan as a violent enforcer, and earns Kiyoshi's trust and friendship, rising above his status as an outsider. Meanwhile, a war is brewing with a rival family, and Nick is forced to learn a thing or two about honor and loyalty.

The Outsider Movie Image 2

The Japanese culture is fascinating and the Yakuza has rarely been the focus of a more in-depth exploration. This film, however, doesn't go as deep as it should. In the past, there have been other attempts on the subject, particularly the white man in Japan angle, including Ridley Scott's "Black Rain" and Sydney Pollack's "The Yakuza". The former was a beautifully shot but shallow bit of action yarn, and the second was an okay hriller with an occasionally fascinating point of view on the Japanese way of life. "The Outsider" is more like "The Last Samurai" of Yakuza films, a sombre look at a violent world through the eyes of an outsider, and an attempt to craft an epic with a broader scope. The result falls short because the filmmakers don't focus enough on the Japanese context and too often fall back on bland storytelling and even less memorable characters.

The plot is standard crime saga fare. It's not particularly remarkable and readily serves up cliches throughout. Its characters are also of the familiar kind. The godfather-type leader under pressure from rival clans to move with the times or die, the taciturn American lone wolf, the traitor from within the family, all these personalities we've seen before and the film doesn't improve on these character templates. "The Raid 2" comes to mind as a similar piece of pulpy crime fiction that knew how to twist its familiar story into something different.

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Jared Leto is wasted here, limited to looking like a wide-eyed psychopath with a ghostly complexion. Leto's character is an empty shell, which would be fine as a war vetaran adrift in a foreign culture, but so much about him doesn't make sense. His backstory isn't revealed, so I'm left to assume that perhaps he's been broken by the violence of war, but throughout the film he's shown displaying amoral brutality more befitting of a sociopath. Later on he discovers honor and love and by the end he's earned the respect of his Yakuza brothers. The character makes some serious leaps in his developement, and without proper context they're just random character beats, without logic or reason.

If you take everything into consideration, there aren't many redeeming qualities about "The Outsider". Weak characters, especially its protagonist, and a ton of cliches. These are pretty serious offences, but the best that I can say about this film is that I wasn't bored. And it is a fairly polished film, with decent cinematography and production design. If you're interested in watching a crime drama, or a Yakuza movie, you should give it a try and judge for yourself. It's not really worse than "Black Rain", or "The Yakuza". It actually makes for a neat three-movie marathon. If you want something different, however, or something that will blow your mind, look elsewhere.



  • Polished production values and attention to details make for a good looking film
  • Fascinating setting for a crime story
  • Interesting enough to avoid being boring

  • Shallow treatment of Japanese culture and the Yakuza
  • Overly familiar crime saga plot riddled with cliches
  • Poorly conceived protagonist
  • Jared Leto is wasted



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