“The Outsider” breaks the notion that all Netflix original movies are garbage, but also reinforces the truth that all Netflix movies are inherently derived from other movies on Netflix. Like Jared Leto’s character, this wannabe Yakuza tale never feels wholly legitimate, an almost-movie that never truly capitalizes upon its niche streaming resources. But “The Outsider’s” aim is true and just, while never fully hitting its target, it’s still admirable in its reach.
Jared Leto plays Nick Lowell, an American stuck inside a Japanese prison in the 1950s. His cellmate Kiyoshi attempts suicide so he can be hospitalized and then rescued by his Yakuza brothers. Kiyoshi then sends for Nick after his release, prompting Nick’s induction into the Yakuza clan. Despite his most stoic, murderous efforts, Nick never fully belongs in the Yakuza, his anglicized upbringing a constant reminder of a not-enough tortured past.
The film never fully feels committed to its era, with only the occasional flash of a classic car reminding us that it isn’t today. Osaka never feels fully realized, nor does the criminal infrastructure that allows this branch of Yakuza to exist in the first place. But “The Outsider” does place an extensive emphasis on Japanese tradition and familial relationships, a sense of duty, honor and respect, even if its given to those not appreciative.
It’s a worthwhile crime jaunt for those with 120 minutes to spare, a movie you’d never seek out at the cinema but are happy to cozy up with on a lonely weeknight. “The Outsider” does not have a strong personality or voice, but that doesn’t stop it from speaking loud to anyone who will listen.