Dead or Alive
"I think people should go see the film just to see the utter ridiculousness that the movie represents."
Dead or Alive (1999)
AKA: Dead Or Alive: Hanzaisha
Director: Takashi Miike
Producer: Makoto Okada, Katsumi Ono
Cast: Riki Takeuchi, Sho Aikawa, Renji Ishibashi, Hitoshi Ozawa, Shingo Tsurumi, Kaoru Sugita, Hirotaro Honda, Minoru Iizuka, Michisuke Kashiwaya, Mizuho Koga, Ren Oosugi, Tomoro Taguchi, Susumu Terajima, Hua Rong Wong, Kyosuke Yabe, Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi
Running Time: 105 min.
Plot: See review below.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
MAIROSU'S REVIEW: And so finally, I rent a Miike Takashi film. After hearing countless stories about him, seeing numerous trailers for his shock-fests such as Ichi the Killer, Audition or Fudoh, I finally took a chance on one particular film from this director. After consulting several friends and reading even more reviews, his 1999. effort Dead or Alive looked like a good start.
Man, oh man, oh man...oh man.
They were all right - this guy pulls out all the plugs. And he delivers. In style.
Dead or Alive is a film concentrating on two characters. One is Ryuichi (Riki Takeuchi), a son of Japanese who were born in China. Feeling no ties to Japan as an ethnic group or any obligations to the Yakuza mob, Ryuichi starts his own drug empire with his gang of street punks (of same descent), undermining the ruling Sino-Japanese cartel. The other one is police detective Jojima (Sho Aikawa), forced to cooperate with the Yakuza in order to pay for his daughter's surgery, who might not live long if she's not operated on. As Ryuichi's gang rises to prominence, Jojima is pressured from both Yakuza and the police department to track him down and eliminate him.
How will you digest this movie depends on how you survive the first ten opening minutes. The intro, which packs a wallop, is an almost hallucinogenic tirade of sex, drugs, gore, blood, more gore, more sex, sodomy, big guns, gluttonous eating, excessive violence and God knows what not, which, wrapped with hard rock music blasting in the background, plays like some sort of demented MTV music video and leaves you with a near-blank gaze as it finishes. From that point, the film sails into more conventional Yakuza flick waters, delivering a shock-effect every now and then when you're unprepared - we get to see a brief scene of animal/human sex, one girl drowning in her own feces and another girl spitting out semen after a blowjob - but even with those, the focus is clearly on the struggles of two protagonists. Ryuichi tries to deal with his brother, freshly back from the studies in the USA, who rebels against him after he hears that blood money was used to finance his education. And Jojima just keeps sinking deeper and deeper into corruption with his daughter's condition worsening - worse yet, she ignores his efforts in a rebellious manner, and his wife might be having an affair. The stage for the big showdown is finally set after Ryuichi's brother is gunned down by the police and Jojima's family eradicated in an act of retaliation - and if you managed to swallow the opening ten minutes, you're in for an ending which I doubt anyone could have predicted (and with that I can safely conclude that the scriptwriter Ichiro Ryu definitely used some illegal substances while penning this one).
Takashi is in cruise control the whole film, making all the violence bizzarely stylish. It seems that the grand action shootouts are his forte, but he handles the more dramatic (and subsequently less bloody) parts of the film very well, too, showing that he's not an one-dimensional shock-jock-one-trick-pony. The cast, especially Takeuchi, excels, and the role players do a good job here as well - look out for the stuttering gangster from Ryuichi's posse, and his visions of his own future as a deity.
This is brutal entertainment at its best, and definitely not for everyone (rated 18+ in Europe and R in the USA). But if you can handle some graphic heat, you're in for a wild ride with Dead or Alive. Me? I'm off to rent the sequel.
MAIROSU'S RATING: 8/10
EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: Instead of reviewing each of the three Dead or Alive movies individually, I'll just go for it and try to kill 3 birds with one stone. The only thing the three movies actually have in common (on screen) is that they all star Sho Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi. Though Aikawa seems to play 3 different roles in the movies, Takeuchi only seems to play variations on the same character (but, don't think this is a bad thing). I'll start with a brief run down of the plots of the 3 films.
Detective Jojima (Aikawa) is on the trail of Ryuichi (Takeuchi) and his gang after they pull off a bank heist. Unfortunately, because of his demanding job, Jojima doesn't get to spend a lot of time with his family, but takes it upon himself to come up with $200,000 for an operation for his sick daughter. Ryuichi is as cold-blooded as they come and doesn't let anyone stand in his way, including Jojima. Lots of shoot outs, lots of blood and lots of the usual sick Miike stuff. It had, by far, the funniest and strangest ending EVER.
Not nearly as bloody as the first (or any other Miike movie I've ever seen), but definitely more dramatic and more of a character driven piece. Mizuki Otamoko (Aikawa), a sniper assassin, is about to pull the trigger on his latest kill when he's interrupted by his target being shot in the back of the head at point blank range by one of his own men, Shuichi Sawada (Takeuchi). When Otamoko realizes who the killer is, his childhood friend, he goes back to the orphanage where they were raised together knowing that Sawada will go there, too. After spending some time together (and with some of their other friends from the orphanage), they team up to kill· but for a very good cause.
In the year 2346, Yokohama's residents are ruled by an evil, homosexual, overlord, Mayor Woo, bent on keeping people from ever breeding again. Ryu (Aikawa), a super-human replicant, protects a young boy from Officer Honda (Takeuchi) and his troop, and joins the boy's family/underground resistance movement as they try to kidnap Woo. Their goal is to trade the Mayor for the release of their compatriots. Things go wrong and they end up accidentally kidnapping Honda's son. Unfortunately, there weren't as many cool special effects as I was hoping for in such a futuristic sci-fi movie. But the few times they were used, it was very entertaining.
I wasn't actually sure what to expect from any of the movies in this trilogy, but I enjoyed them far more than I thought I would. They weren't just a series of sick and shocking events, but instead actually had very solid stories; especially in DOA2, in which it was almost entirely driven by the story and the acting, and not on the action. I was really impressed by Riki Takeuchi in DOA2, having seen him kill a number of people in cold blood and then later see him treat orphaned children with the playful compassion a person might treat their own children. I'm sure he had a much easier time in parts 1 and 3, where he simply got to play a fairly evil guy, but I think he did a far better job in part 2. I can tell you, though, that I've never seen someone look so cool in a black trench coat. I'm just thankful he wasn't as over-the-top in the DOA Trilogy as he was in Battle Royale 2.
Sho Aikawa was terrific in all three movies. He played his character of Jojima in DOA1 cold and dark. He played Otamoko as a slightly aloof assassin, but with a purpose as noble and as touching as any. Finally, he played Ryu as a playful, but deadly, protector of the people who became his friends. The acting of the two leads was definitely what made the trilogy so memorable.
I would highly recommend them. The action is plentiful, but the drama is there as well. They certainly aren't the best in their genres, but they're definitely above average and extremely well done.
EQUINOX21'S RATING: 9/10 (Overall Trilogy rating: 8/10)
WOODY'S REVIEW: This is the one that introduced the majority of us Westerners to the brilliantly depraved, fucked-in-the-head cinematic stylings of Japan's greatest import since enema porn and songs by The Boredoms with "anal" in the title: Takashi Miike.
The films of Takashi Miike are a visual counterpart to punk music... anarchaic, anti-establishment, exhilarating, and often angry, a cinematic middle finger rooted firmly in an upright position, pointed in the direction of an unsuspecting audience. Miike jumps from genre to genre, from musical to horror, from crime to comedy... but never loses his outright contempt for a mainstream audience, much to the delight of those of us who have become jaded, who have seen it all and then some. Take me, for example...I've seen a guy get a gun shoved up his ass in "Baise Moi", I've seen a chick get hung off of a tree by her tits with meathooks in the old Italian cannibal flick "Make Them Die Slowly", and all of those slices of imitation Japanese snuff that were "Guinea Pig". I've seen all kinds of gory, depraved shit. I've also seen my share of great, great films by wonderful directors, from the melancholy romanticism of Wong Kar Wai to the surreal nightmares of David Lynch, from the zany camera work of the brothers Coen to the dry whimsy of Wes Anderson. I have seen my share of bad movies, too...from "Bloodfist" to "Gigli" to the overrated "Ringu" and back.
What I'm trying to say is, for the past sixteen years of my life, I've been consuming movies on a nearly daily basis, and, no matter how great the film, I rarely find myself shocked or surprised. I mean, I still enjoy watching films, but that magic is missing...the magic that I felt watching "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" on the big screen while my father snored loudly next to me. The wide-eyed, jaw-to-the-floor suprise I felt at the end of "The Usual Suspects." That magic that caused me and all of my buddies in Ms. Singleton's 6th grade class to get into fights over who would get to be Mr. Blonde when we were assigning colors to eachother after seeing "Reservoir Dogs". But I have rediscovered that magic, and you can too. Just rent "Dead or Alive".
"Dead Or Alive" shocks, surprises, and exhilarates. The opening scene alone is worth the price of admission...a fast cut montage of coke-snorting, gay sex in a public bathroom, strippers, Riki Takeuchi riding on his motorbike to dispatch some enemies, and ramen pouring from a stomach wound, among other woefully-offensive occurences. Cut like a trailer, and beginning with a count-off of "1...2...3...4!", the opening is an amazing and audacious start to a movie that only gets better. After the beginning, I was left asking myself, "That was amazing...but where can it all go from here?" Well, it goes deep into the mind of that insane maverick that is Takashi Miike and gets even more suprising and shocking as it goes along, if more subdued as to allow the story to shine through... a Japanese versus Chinese take on Michael Mann's "Heat". Miike takes what could have easily been a decent crime flick and turns the genre itself around on his head. Never content in just settling for Tarantino-style cool or balletic Woo-like action, Miike adds little twists and nuances on typical genre conventions as to add to the bizarre 'anything goes' atmosphere of his work. He also refuses to let up in the entertainment department...every scene, even the exposition used in order to further the story, is capable of holding your interest, because it is filtered through Miike's sick, sick mind.
Take for example a scene in which a police inspector goes to get some answers from a couple of his underworld contacts. The scene could have been boring...the typical lazy bit of dialogue in order to move the story along. Instead, Miike has the police question the guys while they are in the course to trying to take pictures of a dog fucking a very uninterested looking chick. Welcome to the world of Takashi Miike.
If that's not enough to pique your interest, there is a scene where a girl drowns in a kiddy pool of her own... I don't want to spoil it for you, so watch it. You'll see. I'm not saying Miike flicks are for everyone...they are violent, disgusting, often unrealistic and cartoon-like, nihilistic to an extreme, and immoral and offensive and wonderful and brilliant and I can't get enough of them. Oh, and did I mention this flick has the greatest fucking ending you will ever see in your entire pathetic life on this Earth?
If Michael Mann's "Heat" got butt-raped by a German Shepard while a Japanese girl in a nurse outfit with an enema bag looked on disinterested, and then afterwards, was pumped full of cartoonish ultra-violence and a giddy sense of pride in it's own depravity, and then blown up with a submarine launched ballistic missle, it's remains then dumped into a film can and ran through a projector, the result would be "Dead or Alive", a great starting point for future fans of depraved genius Takashi Miike as well as required viewing for any and all of those who have enjoyed his other cinematic masterpeices. Throw some popcorn in the microwave, grab a seat on the couch, and watch this one with the entire family.
WOODY'S RATING: 10/10
METETRON'S REVIEW: Dead or Alive is a movie....... so to speak.
I'm going to tell you right now: I didn't like the film. I was subjected to a lot of hype from members of another message board (which shall remain nameless). They compared it to the excellent film "Versus " and if you know Metetron, you know I love Versus so my standards were high.
Granted I knew this was a low budget movie but I didn't expect it to have:
However, it has the coolest opening montage of scenes at the very beginning. Now that was awesome!
The opening kind of introduces the characters in the movie by showing them performing illegal acts that if used in the film in a more robust or exciting way could have shown some of them in a new and more interesting light....but alas the only good thing in the movie was wasted on the opening and not exploited throughout the film.
Over all I think people should go see the film just to see the utter ridiculousness that the movie represents.
METETRON'S RATING: 5/10 (Opening montage of scenes to Dead or Alive: 8/10 )