The last time I reviewed a movie for which the description sounds like a random Scrabble result, it was the whimsically insane Michael Shannon Christmas Bigfoot Movie. That movie is a gift from another dimension. The Jared Leto Emo Yakuza Movie, on the other hand, is some kind of punishment, I’m sure. This is not a movie you watch, it’s an act visited upon you by some vengeful sprite you unintentionally insulted. Technically called The Outsider, the Jared Leto Emo Yakuza Movie commits the cardinal sin of dumb premises—it’s boring. It’s so boring there is probably a DMV somewhere in the world playing it on a loop in the waiting room.
If you’re going to make a stupid movie, the least you can do is commit to the stupidity. There’s a whole sub-genre of action films that are committed to their own dumb premise, led by Road House and Point Break. Those are dumb movies that are not trying to be not-dumb, but they are trying to make the action look good, and the result is pure gold. The good news for the Jared Leto Emo Yakuza Movie is that the action—all two minutes of it—does look good. (The director, Martin Zandvliet previously made the Oscar-nominated Land of Mine, about German POWs clearing a mine-ridden beach, so he knows tension effective action.) The bad news is, it doesn’t realize it’s dumb. It thinks it’s the Artsy Jared Leto Yakuza Film, and it is definitely not that. But this is why the movie is so f*cking boring, because it is taking itself way too seriously.
It could have been an artsy Yakuza film if it was about Kiyoshi (Tadanobu Asano, Thor: Ragnarok), who rejoins his Yakuza family after a prison sentence only to find his family losing ground in the changing post-war economy. But it’s not about Kiyoshi, it’s about Jared Leto, his cellmate, who follows Kiyoshi to the Yakuza because he feels indebted to Kiyoshi for prison reasons. Then, for no discernable reason, Jared Leto gets SUPER INTO the Yakuza, and becomes the BEST YAKUZA, doing the Yakuza better than the life-long Yakuza, except for Kiyoshi, who also does Yakuza really good. But they do f*ck up, and ceremonially cut the tips of their fingers off to atone for it, which makes them like Yakuza blood brothers.
If this seems 1) completely homoerotic, IT IS, and 2) like a vast and shallow oversimplification of the Yakuza, it is also that. The Jared Leto Emo Yakuza Movie is a Western impression of Yakuza movies, like Kurosawa by way of Wolverine comics. And if it took itself less seriously, it could be fun as that. Still kind of in bad, appropriative taste, but fun in a trashy B-movie way. But it is taking itself seriously, which leads us back to the first point—the homoeroticism. Like all unexamined tough-guy movies, the Jared Leto Emo Yakuza Movie is deeply homoerotic, which is totally fine but again, this movie is not self-aware so it has nothing to say about masculine affection in a more constrictive time and place. Really it has nothing to say at all except that Yakuza movies are cool, and wouldn’t it be neat to be in one?
The one grace note of the Jared Leto Emo Yakuza Movie is that it is not, as advertised, a John Wick knock-off. The misleading trailer is the result of someone desperately trying to make this boring ass movie look interesting. While Jared Leto is prone to (graphic) violence, there isn’t a ton of it in this movie. Mostly it’s just Jared Leto following people around and looking like he’s trying not to fart while plot happens around him. Occasionally, he beats someone with a typewriter, but mostly he’s just walking around, for which Jared Leto is better suited than being John Wick. So the Jared Leto Emo Yakuza Movie is interminably boring and lacking any awareness, but at least it’s not trying to be John Wick. Small mercies.
The Jared Leto Emo Yakuza Movie is available now on Netflix.