As a huge fan of Martin Zandvliet’s 2015 masterpiece, Land of Mine, I was eager to see his newest incarnation, The Outsider. With Jared Leto as the lead, I was even more excited. Leto is a chameleon that makes any film he is in instantly better as he is a dedicated method actor who disappears into his character. Imagine to my dismay what they have created in The Outsider. This is a Netflix release that has only received actual theatrical releases in Los Angeles and a couple of other cities. After, I viewed this film, I can see why. This was a tough film to get through and it took me two days to do it, too.
The Outsider tells the story of an American, Nick (Leto) being stuck in a Japanese prison in the 1950’s. Why is he there? No one knows. When he saves the life of a fellow inmate, Kiyoshi (Tadanobu Asano) who happens to be a member of the Yakuza (Japanese mob), he instantly creates a friend for life. After Nick is released, he enters the world of the Yakuza after being introduced to the hierarchy by Kiyoshi. But, being a “gaijin” (Japanese for “an outsider”) as he is referred to, Nick is always relegated to being last on official Yakuza business. I guess the key to the executive washroom will have to wait for him, then.
There is the tired, forbidden romance of Nick with Kyoshsi’s sister, Miyu (Shioli Kutsuna) which goes nowhere. Two American characters played by Rory Cochrane as a corrupt warehouse manager and Paulie (Emile Hirsch), a former member and supposed friend of Nick’s from World War 2 are so inconsequential to the film I wondered why they were even included. They simply fill time on screen. I was curious to know if Mr. Cochrane and Mr. Hirsch had both lost a bet and their fulfilling that bet meant being in this useless film. I guess Paulie is a member of Nick’s old unit, but who cares since not one plot line is followed through and they are only in one scene a piece.
Of course, not everyone is liking a westerner being part of the Yakuza, but Nick is owed so this is Kiyoshi’s way of repaying Nick. The next two hours is nothing but Leto catatonically shuffling from scene to scene with no rhyme or reason. His character is given nothing to do but sleepwalk for two hours. We know nothing about Nick. He is given no background at all so when we are supposed to care about him, we have nothing to relate to to make us care. There is no character development for anyone in The Outsider. Even the Japanese characters are not given any backstory at all. Scenes are formless with no tension or sense of freshness. The pacing is extremely slow and when there are brief excerpts of action, they are rendered meaningless for a lack of story that simply does not exist for The Outsider.
This is a hopelessly mundane and excruciatingly dull film. Aside from the locales used, the 1950’s cars, the Japanese cultural that is shown beautifully and great score by Sune Martin (who also provided an excellent score for Land of Mine), The Outsider is truly wretched. With a run time of two solid hours, it took me two days to get through it. After one hour on day one, I had to stop because of the banality of the film. It literally was putting me to sleep. Not something I look forward to from a film by Marin Zandvliet or Jared Leto, for that matter. If you want to see a film about Japanese culture then watch the Travel Channel, You Tube or any number of outlets that are out there or you can watch Ridley Scott’s Black Rain. Skip The Outsider.
The Outsider – 1/2 star out of 5
The Outsider – Rated R for scenes of brief graphic violence, some nudity and language
The Outsider – Run time is 120 minutes.
If, for some reason, you are still interested in seeing this film, The Outsider is now playing on Netflix.