|Plot Outline: Two hitmen, both in search of something other than the brutality of their everyday lives, set off to an island from their childhood. Along the way the two find each other, find a friendship both had almost forgotten, find themselves, and find their humanity. The two decide to take their jobs and start making money with the intentions of donating it all to starving children. Things don’t go as planned after they kill a gangster who’s wife sets three hitman out for revenge.|
The Review: When most people think about Takashi Miike’s Dead or Alive they think of those high octane blood soaked first 6 minutes of film, or the ultra bizzaro ending. If you know Miike though, you should know to expect the unexpected. So I figured going into the sequel that it wasn’t going to be anything like the original, much less a continuance. How could it be? If you’ve seen the original you know what I mean. Instead of taking the film in the same direction as the original, Miike just made a sequel that followed it’s own path and created it’s own universe. When it comes down to it, I’m not entirely sure which is the better film. On one hand DOA1 helped to introduce the world to Miike and establish himself among the international community, but on the other hand DOA2 is a fresh and imaginative sequel that doesn’t suffer as much from the dragging pace of the original and is just a whole lot of fun.
If you ask anyone what was the thing they didn’t like most about the original DOA, they’ll likely tell you the center half of the film. The pace switches gears and tends to leave many dry. With DOA2 though, the pace may be slow, but it’s never on false pretenses. The film lets you know it’s slow in the first 3 minutes of the film. A magician, played by Miike favorite Shinya Tsukamoto, has a faux street fight with two packs of cigarettes on his desk. Each pack representing the two gangs he’s wanting to start a war between. The scene goes on for a few minutes, Shinya making all the sound effects for the dying cigarette gangsters as he smashes them into one another. The scene seems to go on forever, it’s hilarious, but it’s extremely drawn out. The whole scene strikes me as if it’s Miike’s way of telling the audience “you’re in for something different”, and that’s precisely what he delivers.
If you’re one of the people who kept getting a Takeshi Kitano feeling during the original DOA, like me, then DOA2 is just going to strike you as deja vu. The original film always seemed like a spoof of the Kitano class of gangster films, but DOA2 feels like something different. I would go so far as too say an ‘homage’ if it wasn’t for the fact that I read that Miike interview where he said he wasn’t all too familiar with kitano’s work. So, this film could be looked at as a spoof as well, but it just feels too serious for something like that. Too somber. I think this was just Miike experimenting, that or the writer blatantly wanted a Kitano-esque film. The film has many of Kitano’s quirks and trademarks. Yakuza, the beach, deliberately slow pace, overly long shots, bursts of violence from out of nowhere. There are points in the film that I feel sure that the untrained eye might mistake the film for Kitano himself, but Kitano would never have a children’s play in the midst of the film spliced with footage of an extremely brutal Yakuza gang war that also features a little necrophilia. Not to mention a gigantic dismembered and pixelated male reproductive organ. Miike isn’t just all about violence, no matter what the critics may say, Miike delves deeper into the surreal with this film, much more than I think any of his films have. In one of my favorite little moments, Sho Aikawa actually floats into the shot from off screen. The little touch adds nothing really, but it lets you know what you’re in for fairly early on in the film.
The latter twenty or thirty minutes of the film relies heavily on symbolism and utter surrealism. Some might say it’s overindulgent, but I just think it’s fun. For the most part the symbolism is fairly easy to understand, the scene on the rooftop standing out as the most concise, but the film is full of all kinds of puzzles. For a filmmaker who claims not to put much thought into his films when he makes them, Miike stands as one of the most challenging filmmakers of modern times. This film, to me, is actually one of his most daring moments. He takes the expectations of others and buries them. Rather than live up to expectations he paves his own way, that’s why I love this guy. Now I suppose I should move on to the acting, something I feel fairly talkative about. The first thing that struck when I watched DOA2, was that both Sho Aikawa and Ricky Takeuichi seem to play completely opposite characters than they did in the first film. Sure Ricki still grimaces half the time but even he is a polar opposite of the brute he played in the original. Ricki actually cries while reminiscing on his youth in one scene. He plays around as a tiger in the play for the children, and seems to have a much meatier role in this sequel. As for Sho, Sho’s just all over the place! Displaying a charisma I would have never guessed him to have. The camera just loves the guy, and the blonde hair actually makes him seem a lot younger than the uptight detective in the first film.
I don’t think I can recommend this film without the first. The films may not be tied together by themes or story, but to see one without the other seems like a disservice. Same goes for the third film as well. Whether you’ll like/love this film is entirely up to your tastes, if you don’t mind watching a film that might not tie completely together or just an out-and-out bizarre film, DOA2 might be up your alley. Like many of the films I review on this site, this is for a niche audience. If you like it though, chances are you’ll love it. You just can’t go wrong with Miike.