Coming out Friday on Netflix, The Outsider tells the story of an American World War II POW in an Osaka prison, Nick (Jared Leto), who manages to get out when he helps another prisoner with ties to the Yakuza. Then he proceeds to join the family business and inexplicably do their bidding, throat-jabbing underground casino bosses, breaking glasses on rival’s faces and beating fellow Americans to death with typewriters. It’s fun! Or it should be. But it’s not. It’s really, really not. The Outsider makes absolutely zero sense. It’s like someone edited out all the parts that would make it make sense and replaced them with shots of Jared Leto sipping on sake, flashing smoldering looks into a mirror and speaking varying amounts of Japanese. So threadbare is the motivation attached to the protagonist’s every action that the film, at times, slips into existential absurdity, but not in a cool, Godard-y way. I am convinced the only way this movie would make sense would be if you were to a) tell me this is actually a two-hour Gucci commercial; or b) prove that Jared Leto is, in fact, a cyborg. Otherwise, I don’t want to hear it.
Below, I’ve compiled the most comprehensive, halfway-chronological list of things that make zero sense in The Outsider ever compiled. Let’s revel in the confusion and then forget this ever happened. Also: this will contain spoilers, but you probably don’t want to watch this whole thing, anyway.
1. Nick (whom I will refer to as “Jared Leto” from now on) and another prisoner, Kiyoshi, are thrown into solitary confinement together, which defeats the purpose of "solitary" confinement. Kiyoshi tells Jared Leto that if he tries to commit suicide, the guards have to send him to the hospital, where his “brothers” will help him escape—and subsequently come back for Jared Leto, provided he help him not actually die. So Kiyoshi slices himself across the abdomen, and—here’s where things starts to not make sense—Jared Leto attempts to STOP THE BLEEDING WITH HIS BARE FUCKING HANDS. DUDE, YOU HAVE A SHIRT. YOU HAVE BEDSHEETS. YOU WERE SUPPOSEDLY IN THE ARMY. AND YOUR HANDS ARE GETTING ALL BLOODY!
2. Jared Leto is escorted out of the prison and into the hands of Kiyoshi and fellow members of the Shiromatsu family. Here’s a question: if it was so easy for the Yakuza to get an American POW out of prison in 1954 Osaka, why did one of their own have to fake-commit suicide to get to a hospital where he could escape?
3. After asking if he’d try to negotiate with an American businessman for the Shiromatsu familiy, Jared Leto is deposited at a bar/inn in the city, where a Japanese waitress—who is later revealed to be Kiyoshi’s sister, Miyu—asks him if he wants a beer, in English, WITH NO TRACE OF A JAPANESE ACCENT. Again, this is Osaka in 1954.
4. The next morning, Jared Leto is picked up by Kiyoshi and a henchman, and taken to a port. To the viewer’s mind, he has been given no instruction on what to do once he’s inside. He just knows, I guess? Jared Leto talks to the boss, an American, about a contract dispute over metal he has with the Shiromatsu family. The American refuses to negotiate—although, to be fair, Jared Leto doesn’t really even try. He just listens, then waits for the American to turn back to his work, walks over, picks up a typewriter and bashes him over the head with it several times. Few things: Why did the Yakuza require an American to bash a fellow American over the head with a typewriter? Couldn’t they have just done that themselves? And why did Jared Leto just presume that was what he was supposed to do?
5. Jared Leto walks out of the port all bloody, past employees, arousing no suspicion. “Is he alive?” Kiyoshi asks. “He’ll live,” Jared Leto responds, because apparently Jared Leto has beaten men over the head with typewriters before, and knows just when to stop so that they don’t bleed out. Duh!
6. Members of a rival family, the Seizu, walk into a bar, where the Shiromatsu family is sitting. Barbs are traded, over another contract dispute. When one of the leaders of the rival family calls Jared Leto a “white little kitten,” in Japanese, Jared Leto smashes a wine glass in his face. Ok, but, wait: Jared Leto, we are made to believe before, speaks hardly any Japanese. How the fuck does he know he’s talking about him? The answer is: Jared Leto only understands and speaks Japanese when it behooves the movie for him to understand and speak Japanese.
7. Jared Leto takes Miyu, Kiyoshi’s hot sister, home from a club, sharing a series of furtive glances. At her door, Jared Leto tells her she’s beautiful. She invites him inside. They have sex. Now they’re madly in love. Movie magic!
8. Jared Leto is officially initiated into the Yakuza family, which is certifiably absurd. Why does the Yakuza need Jared Leto? What makes him so fucking special? Some critics have already lambasted the film for placing a white man at the center of what’s really a Japanese story, and rendering the rest of the characters as stereotypes. I agree with these criticisms. But at the same time, can you really blame a puppy for shitting on the rug? By which I mean: can you really criticize a totally senseless movie for an aspect of it that doesn’t make sense?
9. Jared Leto’s performance, like his performance in Blade Runner 2049, does not make sense. He does not so much act in this movie as model a series of wide-eyed looks that are supposed to signify stoicism (hence, my Gucci theory); he looks like a robot trying to play a human. Which isn’t his fault: Jared Leto’s character is given no interiority. He doesn’t appear to know why he’s doing anything he’s doing, because neither the writer nor director of the movie seems to care why he cares about being a Yakuza, why he hasn’t tried to go home to the U.S., or how he became the only American POW in that Osaka prison in the first place.
10. Emile Hirsch: what are you doing in this movie? The actor has a thankless role as a GI who recognizes Jared Leto, and is subsequently murdered for it. I mean I know he's difficult to work with and all, but doesn’t Emile Hirsch have anything better to do than get his throat slit by cyborg-Jared Leto in a pointless, hollow Japanese crime movie?
11. At the end of the movie, Jared Leto, having impregnated Miyu, slices the Shiromatsu family’s traitor (the boss’s son!) and presumably becomes the de facto head of the Shiromatsu family. To reiterate: Jared Leto is still more or less just a random white dude one of their members met in prison.