Dead or Alive: Birds
"I'm sure [Riki Takeuchi] 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."
Dead or Alive: Birds (2000)
AKA: Dead or Alive 2
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Masa Nakamura
Producer: Toshiki Kimura, Mitsuru Kurosawa
Cast: Riki Takeuchi, Sho Aikawa,
Noriko Aota, Edison Chen, Kenichi Endo, Hiroko Isayama, Masato, Yuichi
Minato, Ren Osugi, Manzo Shinra, Tomorowo Taguchi, Teah, Toru Tezuka, Shinya
Tsukamoto, Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi.
Plot: When an assassin decides to take the money for a job he failed to complete, he flees the city with Japanese yakuza and the Chinese triads hot on his trail. In hiding, he runs into a fellow assassin, and the two decide to strike back at the gang bosses.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
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)