The Outsider gives viewers another look at Jared Leto’s versatility as an actor. In Dallas Buyer’s Club, Leto earned a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing a vulnerable transsexual, and in this crime drama set in post-World War II Japan, he transforms himself into a mysterious U.S. soldier who joins one of the Yakusa gangs. Although he might not earn another Academy Award for his fine work in The Outsider, Leto delivers a chillingly hypnotic performance that keeps us guessing what his character will do next.
Brotherhood, jealousy, loyalty, betrayal, forbidden love, full-body tattoos, amputated fingers and gangland rivalry receive attention in this Netflix movie directed by Martin Zandvliet (Rocket Brothers) from a screenplay by Andrew Baldwin (The Take). Adding to the film’s quality are top-notch performances by Tadanobu Asano (47 Ronin), Kippei Shina (Wild 7), Min Tanaka (47 Ronin), and Shioli Katsuma (Oh Lucy!) Also deserving of recognition is Camilla Hjelm (Land of Mine), whose excellent cinematography helps us feel like we are witnesses to the events unfolding rather than looking at them on screen.
Nick Lowell (Leto) thinks he’s finally found where he belongs -- with the Shiramatsu gang. Yes, they are Yakusa. But respected member Kiyoshi (Asano) vouches for him, and elderly boss Akihiro (Tanaka) soon realizes his value in the battle against a rival gang. Unfortunately, Nick falls in love with Kiyoshi’s lovely sister Miyu (Katsuma), who is off-limits to him. And Orochi (Shina), a key member of the family, seems very unhappy with an outsider (“gaijin”) coming into the Yakusa fold.
One Yakusa will not accept
an outsider who’s quite adept
at violence to serve the group.
But just how low will this man stoop?
Jared Leto plays new guy Nick.
Not much for talk, but very quick
springing to action, making foes die.
So, where did he come from -- and why?
Another Yakusa befriended him
because he helped, not on a whim.
It happened in a prison cell.
From this point on, I dare not tell.
At least, I can this much reveal.
Jared Leto the film doth steal.
Nick’s motivation? We’re not sure.
But Leto’s acting seems so pure.
It’s not a pretty sight, my friend.
Will gangland action never end?
“Goodfellas” tale set in Japan,
“The Outsider” I cannot pan.
(Released by Netflix. Not rated by MPAA.)
For more information about The Outsider, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.