When Netflix’s “The Outsider” was announced, it seemed like it would be an easy movie to review, even if it was only entertaining due to its ridiculousness. Instead, it’s just boring. The movie is two dreary hours of nothing and is led by one of the worst performances of the industry’s most underwhelming actors.
Talking about the film’s plot is an insurmountable task akin to explaining a Lovecraftian horror. Almost nothing happens and when something does it’s either inconsequential or utter nonsense.
For what it’s worth, the basics are that Jared Leto’s Nick is in prison during the American occupation of Japan after World War II. Why is he in Japan or in jail? No one knows and it is never brought up after he gets out with the help of another inmate linked with the Yakuza.
Once out, Nick becomes a member of a Yakuza family and from there the movie just spins its wheels until the last half hour. At that point, something of a war breaks out between two rival families. So, all you have to do is make it through three fourths of the film for the plot to kick in.
So the film is a slow burn, what about that is so hard to explain? Well, almost interesting ideas are introduced, but nothing ever comes from them.
For example: at one point Nick starts falling in love with the sister of one of his fellow Yakuza members. He is told to stay away from her, but doesn’t and ends up getting her pregnant. What becomes of this? Is Nick kicked out of the Yakuza? Does it strain Nicks relationship with her brother?
Nope. He’s allowed to keep seeing her and the brother is absolutely fine with it.
At the end of the movie, Nick is accused of poisoning the mind of the head of his Yakuza family. The only issue: Nick has no agency in the Yakuza throughout the entire movie. Every single time Nick makes a choice throughout the film it is outside of the realm of the Yakuza. In that very same scene he kills a man in front of an army of rival Yakuza and he is allowed to leave unscathed and unchallenged.
The real kicker is Leto’s acting. He might have been aiming for “stoic," but it comes across as as if he just didn’t know how to respond at any given time. He’s so lifeless it’s tempting to give his performance as The Joker in “Suicide Squad” a pass, as at least then he was putting in some kind of effort.
That’s “The Outsider”, a movie that feels like every scene was written by different people and the director, Martin Zandvliet, was desperately trying to make a cohesive film out of it all. He fails spectacularly, but it does feel like he tried.
The movie isn’t shot poorly. It’s just underwhelming and lacks any kind of directorial flare. If someone like Scorsese had been at the helm maybe this could have been salvageable, but Zandvliet doesn’t seem to have the chops. His IMDB page has four full-length films under his name over the last 10 years and the inexperience shows.
In the end, “The Outsider” should remain outside your watch queue. It may not be the worst film ever, but it’s a tedious bore not even fit for the most hardcore connoisseurs of bad cinema.
William Shelton is a contributor.