In order to settle a business dispute, a mob leader murders one of his own teenage sons. The surviving son vows to avenge his brother's death, and organizes his own gang of teenage killers to destroy his father's organization.
A yakuza enforcer is ordered to secretly drive his beloved colleague to be assassinated. But when the colleague unceremoniously disappears en route, the trip that follows is a twisted, surreal and horrifying experience.
Without a home and feeling no obligation to Japanese society or Yakuza, Ryuichi (Takeuchi Riki) and his small group decide to make their own place by trying to take over the Shinjuku underworld and the drug trade from Taiwan. As they plan an all-out-assault on the remaining Chinese and Japanese mafia kings, only Detective Jojima (Aikawa Sho) stands between them and complete domination. Written by
WARNING: This motion picture contains explicit portrayals of violence; sex; violent sex; sexual violence; clowns and violent scenes of violent excess, which are definitely not suitable for all audiences.
More cinematic madness and style from Takashi Miike
Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive (1999) begins perhaps as strikingly as ever possible. The very first 5 minutes of this film are incredibly fast paced and edited series of brutal and unexplained (yet) Yakuza murders and images from one sleazy night club in which this mayhem mostly takes place. After that, the speed slows down remarkably and the rest of the film reminds me pretty much of the great art of Takeshi Kitano, another Japanese cinema master. Dead or Alive tells the story of two men against each other, one policeman who has to do dirty things with Yakuza in order to get money for his daughter's expensive medical treatment (she has some dangerous and lethal disease) and the other a charismatic Yakuza criminal and these two men are little like Danny Lee and Chow Yun Fat in John Woo's The Killer; Both these men are on the different sides of the law but share many similar traits and thus respect each other. At the film's finale, which is again extremely over-the-top insanity, they finally confront and it is again something as hysterical that can be invented only by this Japanese director or some other from the East. Dead or Alive's beginning and ending are as fast and outrageous as possible and the middle part of the film is very slow and calm. This creates an extremely effective contrast to the film and reminds me very much of Miike's masterpiece, Fudoh from 1996.
Dead or Alive includes many memorable characters which are from sick pervert Yakuzas (who like to drown people into feces etc.) to junkies and university fellows which all are interesting and personal in the hands of this director. The film tells about many sides of humanity and about things we don't usually want to discuss or at least films don't usually discuss! The most important element in the film however is the finale which thickens it all. The conclusion of this ultra original Yakuza drama is exactly the same as Fudoh's whole point, which is that in the human nature and psyche, there is this thing which necessarily doesn't make it impossible to categorize humans as brutes and savages as it all is destructed because of these reasons in Dead or Alive. Enemies cannot stop until it's too late, and nobody is willing to "give up." Man kills man and acts only more "sophisticatedly" than the actual animals and wild beasts of nature. This is very usual topic in Japanese, honest, cinema and it is one thing which usually makes their movies so unique and brilliant.
The finale in Dead or Alive includes things which are not likely to be imagined especially when the whole film before it (excluding the beginning, of course) was so calm and almost peaceful. The finale is very easy to take seriously as it's meant to be as Miike only says his things with different methods, with the methods of this magic filled form of art. When people don't like elements like these in movies, I think it's because of the fact that they don't want to / cannot accept all the possibilities of this art and thus cannot deal with such imagery and elements in films. It all has to be interpreted in order to understand what film maker has to say and give with his/her film. Miike has said he wants that the viewer can be entertained at the same time, but I'm extremely happy that Miike still keeps these entertainment efforts on the background and things in his films which are meant to be entertaining, are also very personal and tolerable and never calculated as in some Hollywood mainstream effort of nowadays'.
Dead or Alive is no less cinematically stunning as Miike's other films. This includes fine use of photography and long shots without edits. The editing is also great especially in this first 5 minutes when the mayhem is so fierce. It all is done with skill and the fast edits never become irritating as they have been finished with care and interest. The often cartoonish violence is somewhat brutal at times and definitely the most graphic elements of this film will alienate most casual viewers as some of the characters and the acts they commit are very sick and repulsive. When a film is this symbolic and almost surreal, the violence doesn't have to be realistic or "believable" either as it is too symbolic and one element in the film. I think Dead or Alive isn't gratuitously violent or sadistic as it all serves the morality of the characters and the world this film depicts.
Dead or Alive isn't quite as great as Fudoh, but still extremely pleasant film from Takashi Miike, who makes films at incredible speed. He makes some 5 or more films per year and most of them are equally personal and inventively wild and mad. I hope this man can continue his "freedom" as a film maker and that he'd never go to mainstream (not to speak of Hollywood!) and fortunately his statements so far don't show signs about this. 9/10
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