The Outsider review round-up: Netflix's Jared Leto-starring sci-fi movie receives critical mauling

Jack Shepherd

Netflix’s recent movie output — Bright, The Cloverfield Paradox, and Mute — have been, it's fair to say, disappointing. Despite A-list actors and experienced filmmakers taking their lead, each has received negative reviews and some very mixed online chatter.

A day before reaching the streaming service, a minimal number of reviews for the Jared Leto-led yakuza movie The Outsider has landed. As you may have expected, critics have not taken well to the movie, many taking issue with director Martin Zandvliet’s choice to focus almost entirely on Leto’s controversial ‘outsider’ character.

“You probably don’t need a critic to tell you that The Outsider, a tragically real crime drama in which Jared Leto plays a silent but violent enforcer for the Yakuza in post-war Japan, is 100 per cent percent horrendous,” writes David Ehrlich of IndieWire, scoring the movie D.

The review further criticises the narrative choice of focussing almost entirely on the Western lead rather than Kiyoshi, “a lifelong gangster who can’t exist beyond the underworld ecosystem.”

“The more this film begs to be told from the inside out, the more Zandvliet shoots it from the outside in. It’s enough to make you wish he hadn’t shot it at all,” Ehrlich concludes.

Slant Magazine share similar criticisms, concluding in their two-star review: “In the end, Zandvliet's decision to place a white man at the center of his narrative only to attempt to examine larger issues that don't involve him leave The Outsider too often feeling rudderless, stuck servicing the story of its dull American outsider and leaving the cultural issues it's actually interested in only superficially explored.”

In their C- review, the AV Club’s Martin Vandvliet says the movie is “beat for beat, one of the most tediously generic yakuza stories imaginable.”

Vandvliet notes that even without the controversial casting of Leto, the movie would be “every bit as bland even without him front and centre, carefully voiding his face of all expression in a failed effort to embody a stoic badass.”

IGN also criticise the movie’s apparent generic plot, saying: “The film might be a functional crime drama but it’s an incredibly unremarkable one.” The publication awarded 4.9 out of 10.

Perhaps the most scathing review, though, comes from The Guardian, who award The Outside one star. “These films give lip service to a faux reverence for their subjects, but then reduce them to a collection of signifiers and monolithic character types before placing them in a position of inferiority to the white interloper,” the publication’s critic writes.

“In its obsession with all things Japanese, the film places a special emphasis on the quality of humility. Nevertheless, the story ends with an elite corps of Asian assassins bowing to the former frontman for 30 Seconds to Mars.”

Luckily, next week will see Netflix release Annihilation, the Natalie Portman-starring sci-fi that has received glowing reviews. The Outsider reaches Netflix 9 March.