Deadly Outlaw: Rekka (Jitsuroku Andô Noboru kyôdô-den: Rekka) (2002)He is the hunter and the hunted.
The Yakuza is a subject for which Miike has a passion so it won’t have come as a surprise that the production team wanted him on board for the project. The construction of Deadly Outlaw: Rekka is reminiscent of a samurai movie brought into modern times with the aid of gangsters. Warring factions fighting for dominance in a violent and profitable environment is a common scenario and the expected aspects that go with a Japanese movie in this scenario are all present. Power struggles, vengeance with honour, respectful antipathy and an almost family like love between the people within the factions. Where Rekka stands out is the willingness to use the artistic license available for movie makers rather than being wrapped up in achieving realism. Realism which can lead to boredom. These flights of fantasy are small and infrequent but enough to make this film an experience rather than just an account of some made up facts.
On the surface Deadly Outlaw: Rekka is just a revenge movie. Kunisada’s (Riki Takeuchi) gang boss is killed so he goes to war with rival gangs as he demands satisfaction. The film is fairly slow paced in the action and violence department and it doesn’t really kick off until the last twenty minutes, even then it doesn’t kick that hard. This was not designed to be an action movie, it is very much more focussed on the characters, their interactions and the consequences of their actions in the volatile environment that they inhabit.
Riki Takeuchi delivers a very strong performance in a role very much focussed on his character. This domination via role is necessary for a part such as this and he achieves it with a perfect balance of crazy to rational. This is complemented by a cutesy look not stereotypical of a hardened criminal and his malleable crazy face. This is not to say that the other characters don’t hold their own. Enough effort has been invested in surrounding characters to give them a depth that makes them interesting in their own way. Kunisada’s love interest adds complication with her timidity and innocence giving the madness a grounding in reality. Despite the aforementioned occasional fantasy flight there is an aspect of realism within the violence surrounding Kunisada and the way that those involved react. It is almost as if there are two threads to the film, one is typical Miike and the other is a traditional gangster movie. The threads maintain their individuality but are drawn closer together by their interactions.
Miike restrains himself from the surrealism he is partial to and delivers a movie more concerned with the little things in life than over-emphasising some flaw in society. There was a big influence from the producers in the making of this film and it has some roots in reality. It shines because Miike gives it the necessary treatment to make it entertaining above and beyond a documentary. The finale is quite ludicrous but not in an expected way (assuming something horrendous was expected) and then the very end is very much open for interpretation but this is the artistic license put to use one final time.