|Plot Outline: Ryuuichi and his gang of friends set out to take over the Japanese underworld. Detective Jojima, on the other side of the law, begins his quest to track him and his gang down. As they draw closer to one another, they both feel the draw of the inevitable battle that will take place between the two. Who will win, or better yet, who will survive?|
The Review: I remember when I first saw the trailer for Dead or Alive, after hearing so much about it, but knowing very little of it, I finally found the trailer at some art house site. After sitting through the minute long series of chaos, I knew then and there that I had to own this film. I needed it like my body needs blood pumping through my veins. I breathed to see more Miike. Well, as any smart film geek does, I started snooping around. Trying to find out as much info as I possibly could. After reading a few reviews I soon realized this film may not be the blood soaked high octane yakuza massacre I was expecting. So, when the day finally came and it was my turn to finally see Miike’s classic gangster flick, I prepared myself. I was either going to walk out of it with more faith in Miike, or I would walk out of it not knowing what to expect or feel about this director I had already started growing to admire. Well, let’s just say my faith and pride in Miike hasn’t been diluted in the least, even ten or so films later.
No matter what review you read, it’s almost illegal not to mention the opening and ending sequences of DOA. trust me they deserve every amount of praise (or venom, depending on the reviewer) they’ve been given. I won’t go into the ending here, I actually had it spoiled for me a little in a review I read before watching the film. I will break down the introduction though. The whole film starts off with Riki Takeuchi and Sho Aikawa, our two leads, sitting on a dock overlooking some water, Sho looks to the camera and begins the countoff “1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4” and thus begins the insane, fuel injected, and adrenaline pumping 6 minute introduction. During this time we see many perversions and oddity’s that boggle the mind. Drugs, Rape, Murder, and just about anything else you can think of are all put on display in this extreme and perverse music video. Not to mention the thunderous rock soundtrack blazing over the insanity, shaking the screen with what is simply one of the greatest and most chaotic intros ever.
Then the unexpected happens, the film slows down. I’m talking SLOWS down. Miike lets us catch our breath, and we’re left wondering when the next bloodbath will ensue. This is what tends to throw most audience members off, the film never regains that speed or chaos. Instead we’re given a fairly formulaic cop drama with just a few hints at the bizarre world of Miike. Some scenes include simulated bestiality and someone being drowned in their own feces. This is only tastes of how strange things can and will get. The cop drama unfolds not entirely different than the average Takeshi Kitano film. I personally look at the film as a Kitano spoof of sorts. Miike said in an interview that he wasn’t/isn’t familiar with Kitano’s work and had only seen a couple of his films at the time, but watching DOA makes me think differently. DOA is often criticized for it’s dragging middle, but in my opinion it seems to be purposefully built that way. Miike likes to mess with people, and dragging the plot down like he did just makes the ultra bizzaro ending come even farther from left field. Don’t let me hype up the ending for you, it’s not too violent really, it’s just one of the most bizarre conclusions ever filmed.
When Dead or Alive was originally in production, the producers were basically hoping to make a “heat” style knock off. Miike being the outlaw that he is took the original 20+ scenes that introduced the characters and just went haywire in the editing room. Thus creating the insane beginning. The ending was completely changed as well, originally Ricki and Sho were to shoot at each other and fall down without knowing who wins. Miike’s spontaneously changing the ending of the film makes me love him all the more. This is what makes this guy so special. His pure boredom with the norm seems to drive him to try new things, that’s why the man has broke so much ground in cinema. Without Takashi Miike I think it’s fair to say I wouldn’t be into Asian cinema like I am today. The second Japanese film I ever saw was Audition, as I believe I’ve mentioned. For those who aren’t familiar with the director, Dead or Alive should introduce you to his style. Whether you like it or not will be something entirely up to you, but if Japanese cinema intrigues you, this is a must see.
Nothing much else to say. For those of you out there that think Japanese cinema died along with Akira Kurosawa, Takashi Miike stands before you. Miike is without a doubt my personal favorite director, just a bit higher than Orson Welles, Takeshi Kitano and David Lynch. You’ll either love him or hate him, but I doubt you’ll ever forget him.