By Dave B.
Before I get into this review, I have to get something off my chest. Jared Leto is kinda creepy. I don’t necessarily mean that in a disparaging sense. I mean that he’s one of those people with internal timing that is a fraction of a beat off from the rest of the world and makes people (possibly only me, I admit) uncomfortable. I don’t understand why he continues to get cast in significant roles. He isn't always terrible, but he's terrible often enough that it doesn't make sense to me why a studio would risk any amount of money on a film starring him.
That said, in some ways The Outsider (Netflix) very much deserves its 24% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The nonsensical story takes place in 1950s Osaka. It isn’t a good movie in any traditional sense. Leto was terrible. The script was uninspired. There was nearly no character development. In fact, the movie was so bad the whole “white savior” thing was barely an issue because nearly everything in the movie (including that always ridiculous plot device) was so poorly executed. However, in some ways, the movie was so bad that it was somewhat engaging. It’s 81% audience score is ridiculous in my opinion, but it’s fairly easy to understand how some people (including myself) may not hate this movie.
For example, there is no background provided for any of the characters. Zero. Their motivations for making implausible decisions are completely opaque. I’m not saying that I need the entire life story of every character, but a couple of 30 second flashbacks or a few instances of some revealing dialogue may have gone a long way towards helping the movie make more sense.
The thing though, is that on some level, it was fun trying to figure out what was going on. During the movie, I wrote an entire page of theories about why Leto’s character joined the Yakuza and why the Yakuza accepted him into their secretive criminal organization after knowing him for a day or so. All or none of those theories could be right. I’ll never know. What I do know, is that The Outsider was bad enough (and took itself seriously enough) to be a bit entertaining.
At two hours long, it wasn’t a short movie, but at no point did I find myself bored. The plot and dialogue were extremely predictable. I could easily watch the movie while simultaneously deeply contemplate it’s deeper mysteries, such as “Is Leto’s character supposed to by a psychopath? No, he’s showing empathy. Something must be wrong with him though. Oh. It’s just Leto’s acting I guess?”; “Why is Leto’s character in a Japanese prison in the first place?”; “I thought he said he didn’t understand much of the Japanese language. He sure seems like he understands a lot of Japanese”; and of course, “What in the world is going on here?! Why is this happening??”
In short, if you can have fun watching a bad movie, you may want to watch The Outsider. You’ll have lots of things to talk about at dinner parties when debating the worst movies of 2018. If you are more serious-minded or don’t have time to waste watching things that are fundamentally garbage, this one is a hard pass. 3/10