The Outsider

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Outsider Movie Poster Image
Japanese mob story is very violent and bloody.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 120 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No positive messages. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

No positive role models. 

Violence

Two attempted suicides in a Japanese prison -- one by hanging, and the other by hari-kari. Lead character tortured by prison guards: flogging and hit with water by a water hose. Graphic and bloody violence throughout. Characters stabbed in the throat, stabbed in the back, sliced across the throat and killed, shot and killed at point-blank range. Female character nearly sexually assaulted by one of the Yakuza. To prove loyalty, lead character slices off the tips of a pinky and ring finger; his mentor immediately follows suit. A man bludgeoned repeatedly in the head with a typewriter and left for dead. 

Sex

Scenes in strip clubs -- women dancing topless, buttocks also exposed. Prostitutes shown on street propositioning passersby. 

Language

"F--k," "s--t." An American supervisor of a corrupt operation on an Osaka dock uses racial slurs against the Japanese. 

Consumerism

Budweiser bottle clearly shown in scene in which lead character is offered an American beer. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking in bars. A drunk man slaps around and nearly commits sexual assault against the lead character's girlfriend. Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Outsider is a 2018 drama in which Jared Leto plays a former American GI in post-WWII Osaka who joins a Yakuza family. Like most movies centered on gangsters and Mafioso anywhere in the world, this movie is extremely violent and bloody. Within the first two minutes, two near-suicides are shown inside a brutal Japanese prison -- one by hanging, and the other by hari-kari. Characters are killed in a variety of methods: sliced across the neck, stabbed in the neck, stabbed in the back, gunned down. In one of the more gruesome and unforgettable scenes, the lead character slices off near the tip of his pinky and then his ring finger directly in front of the Yakuza patriarch; his mentor immediately follows suit and slices the tip of his pinky finger off. One of the Yakuza gets very drunk and makes sexual advances toward the lead character's girlfriend, slaps her around, then nearly rapes her. In another scene, an American character uses a variety of racial slurs against the Japanese. Language includes "f--k," "s--t." Some drinking, cigarette smoking. Brief female nudity in scenes set in strip clubs. 

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What's the story?

In THE OUTSIDER, Nick (Jared Leto), a former American GI presumed dead, is languishing in a brutal Japanese prison in 1954. But after he covers for his cellmate Kiyoshi (Tadanabu Osano), a member of a Yakuza family, Kiyoshi returns the favor by getting Nick released. Kiyoshi brings Nick into the world of his Yakuza family in Osaka, a family that runs the gambling, prostitution, and shipping of the city. After Nick begins to prove his worth to the family against disrespectful gambling den operators, war-profiteering American dock managers, and the rival family all-too-eager to muscle out the Osaka family, Nick begins to fall in love with Kiyoshi's sister Miyu. This increases the tensions between Nick and some of the Yakuza, who distrust Nick as an outsider who they believe cannot possibly be a part of their world. Meanwhile, the fight between the two rival families reaches a boiling point, and Nick must decide if he wants to remain in Japan as a Yakuza or find a way back to America with Miyu. 

Is it any good?

While an entertaining and intriguing story, this movie comes off as being a little too self-aware of the similar movies that came before it, and a little too studied for its own good. Even if one isn't overly familiar with movies centered on Yakuza families, or even Mafia families from Sicily or New Jersey, it doesn't take much to spot the plot twists coming from a mile away. But perhaps this is what the more dedicated fans of movies like these want and expect. The problem is that a perfectly good "fish out of water" story gets overwhelmed with all these expected murders, betrayals, and literal backstabbings. 

While there's no questioning Jared Leto's dedication to the role, it's often difficult to really get a sense of who exactly Nick is. It's assumed and subtly implied that he has found a sense of family and community he hasn't had in quite some time. A chance encounter with a character from his past reveals that the Nick we've seen is a more subdued shell of the more animated GI he used to be. But Leto's "strong and silent type" vacillates between Clint Eastwood's stoicism and Christopher Walken's menace, and it's jarring to reconcile the two. Nonetheless, a place and time (Osaka 1954) is certainly evoked, and The Outsider has some truly unforgettable moments. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies centered on the Mafia. While The Outsider is about Yakuza, how does it compare to other Mafia movies in terms of story, plot twists, character types, and violence? 

  • Do you think the violence was necessary to the story? Did it help to define the overall style of the movie or did it seem gratuitous? Why?

  • This movie can be seen as a "fish out of water"-type story, in which an unexpected character is thrust into a world and culture where they are unfamiliar. What are some other examples of "fish out of water" movies? 

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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