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Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha
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Reviews & Ratings for
Dead or Alive More at IMDbPro »Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha (original title)

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26 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

This movie rocks!

Author: John Doe (fuck-off-y' from Utrecht
6 February 2000

I have no other way to say it: this movie was brilliant! When I saw it last week at the Rotterdam Film Festival, I was completely blown away! And I wasn't the only one... Several other people at the theater actualy gave a (well deserved) standing ovation! This movie was just extraordinary. Not Miiki Takashi's best work (that would be Audition), but certainly one of his most enjoyable and fun flicks! I am amazed that the director is so unknown outside of Japan, because he really is a genius, inventing cinema all over again. He is only in the movie making business for about four years, but already has a body of work that counts no less than 15 movies which are all original and perfect in their own way. In Japan he is well known and is counted to the film avantgarde, but none of his movies really got a wide cinema distribution. Most of his movies are relatively low budget and made for TV, Video or small cinema release. Maybe this gives him the freedom to constantly re-invent himself and push the limit of movie-making in general and perverse, cruel detail in perticular.

Now back to Dead or Alive. The first ten minutes are just breathtaking and eccentric. But after this the movie pulls back into a more conventional Yakuza vs. Cop story, only to go completely over the top at the end. The end effectively blows up every genre convention and just HAS to be seen to be believed.

The basic story is, like I said, quite conventional and simple; a cop tries to solve a case of a group of hitman who have robbed an armored truck. This of course can not be done without getting personally involved and if that wasn't hard enough, he has some grave family trouble too, because his daughter needs an operation which he can not pay. Meanwhile the leader of the killer group is reunited with his younger brother he raised, who does not know anything about his profession. The kid brother tough is destined to choose sides once he finds out that blood money payed for his college education abroad. Meanwhile the band of killers gets involved in a yakuza gang war, fighting over a drug cartel.

The middle part, in which the story unfolds, is shown with very little action and at moments can be compared to the calm style of Takeshi Kitano. But Takashi's signature is always very clear, and there are a lot of small perverse elements that illustrate his tendency to push it to the limit. There is a scene, for example, where a gangster kills a girl by drowning her in a kiddy pool filled with her own poop. But over all the story is told in a very compassionate way, sometimes balancing on the edge of melodrama, but never getting too sentimental because there always is a certain ironic detatchment. Despite this sometimes Kitanoesque detatchment and calm, the movie succeeds in making you really care for and relate to the charakters. I think this really is a big accomplishment. Finally combining this more conventional, 'humane' crime/drama story with the outrageousness of the beginning and the end, and making this combination work, shows how brilliant Takeshi really is. A director that has to be watched carefully!

10 out of 10

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22 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Wild Japanese action!

Author: HumanoidOfFlesh from Chyby, Poland
22 October 2002

Takashi Miike's "Dead or Alive:Hanzaisha" left me speechless.The opening sequence is incredible in its style-we have strippers at work,several bloody shoot-outs,a gangster getting his throat slashed while sodomizing a young man in a public toilet etc.The finale is also amazing-I was literally blown away!The film is strangely amoral-check out especially the scene in which two punks making animal porn try feverishly to excite an Alsatian dog so it can mount naked girl in their presence.The film is not as violent and sadistic as the other Miike's works like "Visitor Q",but there are some really strong images that will surely linger in the memory.The acting is very good,the direction is well-handled and the film is hallucinogenic at times.All in all if you're fed up with predictable Hollywood's action trash check this one out!

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18 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

More cinematic madness and style from Takashi Miike

Author: Bogey Man from Finland
6 August 2002

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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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

dogs and tubs

Author: tom neal
23 February 2000

Watch out, this one is not for the squeamish AND those without a sense of humour. The first five minutes are the biggest roller coaster ride I've experienced in a long, long while and left me breathless. What follows is a mix of heroic bloodshed, Yakuza-flics and manga in the flesh. The ending left me laughing way into my eighth drink. Not as creepy as his Audition, but way more fun.

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13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:


Author: Jeppe Toubro
23 October 2003

No one else but Miike could have made this movie. It has one of the most furious openings ever filmed (and c-c-cut) that leaves you completely breathless, then develops into a serious tale about a small group of gangsters fighting their way up the ladder, and a cop trying to squeeze the yakuza hard enough so he can get a big enough bribe to buy his daughter a heart surgery, and ends in the most insane-ending of all time! It shouldn't work, but it does on SO many levels! All Hail Miike!


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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

The Miike formula in full swing.

Author: Ilker Yucel ( from Annapolis, MD
18 March 2004

After seeing "Oodishon" and "Koroshiya-1," I became an instant fan of Miike Takashi's filmmaking style. His ability to present what would be in the hands of another director a hacknyed and familiar story is nothing short of brilliant. He takes old formulas and infuses them with new life, sometimes through shock value, confusion, humor, and actually brilliant filmmaking. His visuals are always incredible, where even the most mundane shot looks like a great photograph, proving that Miike has a great eye. So here we have "Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha," the first in what would become one of the most controversial and bizarre trilogies in film history. It has relatively good acting, and a great ensemble cast, including two of my favorite Japanese actors (besides Takeuchi and Aikawa, there's Terajima Susumu and Osugi Ren, both alumni of Kitano "Beat" Takeshi's films). Make no mistake, this is not your run-of-the-mill action/drama movie.

The overall story has been done, basically the cop vs. criminal motif. Ryuichi (Takeuchi Riki) heads a small group of misfits who were once Chinese war orphans. Having no place either in the Chinese Triads or the Japanese Yakuza, they wage their own little streetwar against both sides. Detective Jojima (Aikawa Sho) is hot on their trail, but he has problems of his own. He knows his wife is cheating on him and their daughter is dying and he can not afford the operation needed to save her life. It sounds like something out of a John Woo movie, right? Something akin to "Hard Boiled" or "The Killer," but whereas John Woo presents violence in an operatic sense, Miike shows us something more hip and gritty.

The beginning sequence of the film is a montage of everything from gay sex in a bathroom, to snorting 18-foot lines of cocaine, to strippers, to arterial spray, to gluttony, to...pretty much every deadly sin out there. Is it shocking, not particularly (at least not to me), but the MTV-style editing full of fast cuts, sexual imagery, and bright colors gives it a burst of adrenaline that is just a counterbalance to what becomes a very slow and quiet film for the most part. The main plot of the movie is presented in a style similar to Kitano "Beat" Takeshi, with long shots and conversations between characters, with only the most shocking acts of depravity made unshocking by the characters' reactions. There is a scene where Aikawa talks to an informant who is setting up to film a bestiality scene, and his reaction is...almost nonexistent. Or the Yakuza's reaction to their boss drowning a girl in a kiddie pool full of her own feces. It should be shocking and disgusting (and it is), but the shock is diminished by the banality of it. It's as if Miike is playing with the audience, testing our limits and asking us to question what we find acceptable. If another director presented these acts, he or she might show it as if to glamorize it, to overemphasize its putridity. Miike...just shows it as if it's normal, and while some will be offended by this, he has often made the claim that he just wants to get a reaction. And one way or the other, he does. This is the point of the ending, which for awhile matches the ultrahip attitude of the beginning before delving into territory best left to fantasy films. But again, Miike has given us a surprise that is both shocking...and somehow expected because it's unexpected.

The best way to explain this is that line from the movie "Se7en," when Morgan Freeman says to Brad Pitt, "If John Doe's head opens and a UFO flies out, I want you to have expected it." This perfectly describes "Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha" and Miike's style. If it's a Miike film, you're going to see things that are unexpected and even offensive, but because it's Miike, you almost DO expect it, and it almost DOES make a strange sense. Again, he's playing with the audience. Do we really know what we want? Do we really know what to expect? No...and that is Miike's strength. So what if it breaks all the rules of good plot and storytelling, so what if it breaks all the rules of good filmmaking? It's Miike, and it's his formula in full swing. "Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha" is pretty much the epitome of Miike's brand of filmmaking.

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Hypnotically Bizarre, Insane, Sick and Violent

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
19 June 2007

In Japan, after a massacre of Japanese and Chinese gangsters, the tough and persistent Detective Jojima (Sho Aikawa) is in charge of the investigations, while dealing with a personal family problem. His daughter needs to be submitted to a surgery and he needs to raise twenty millions yens urgently. He finds that the Chinese descendant Ryuichi (Riki Takeuchi) has associated to a Taiwanese drug dealer and is eliminating the competition. In the end, their confrontation becomes a personal issue for both.

"Dead or Alive: Hanzaicha" is a hypnotically bizarre, insane, sick and violent police story. The fast paced beginning is absolutely crazy, like a video-clip of unexplained violence. Takeshi Miike does not develop well the characters, with the exception of the ambiguous Jojima and the ambitious Ryuichi. He intends to shock the audiences with repulsive scenes, like for example the anal sex with a homosexual and with a dog, almost explicit oral sex, abusive use of drugs, perversions, sadism, drowning in feces and blood shed. The result of this madness is like a modern western-spaghetti, with the death of all characters. I liked this film, but it is only recommended for very specific audiences. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Morrer ou Viver" ("To Die or To Live")

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13 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Not What I Expected-And That's Good!

Author: sinistre1111 from Kasparhauser, NJ, USA
2 September 2003

Hey this wasn't bad at all. I expected shocking violence and gory thrills, based on the film's reputation, but what I got instead was a thinking, feeling, bizarrely creative film. This was my first Takashi Miike film, and my expectations were low, partly because he's so hyped, and partly because I'm over being shocked, and his films have a reputation of being, well, shocking. The character of the cop is especially palpable, and the scenes that take place in his home are more like the quiet moments of a Beat Takeshi film. This dramatic realism is somehow anchored in the otherwise chaotic flow of the rest of the film. There's a real anything-can-happen vibe to this film that keeps you on the edge, yet when you reflect back upon it, there are really only a few heavy action sequences. I thought that was pretty brilliant, though some may feel disappointed by the low count of flipped cars. Hey wanna see an action film? See Formula 51; that had plenty of action, with no damn reason for any of it. And what a forgettable film that was. Dead or Alive is rollicking and at times inexplicable, but never boring. Highly recommended.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

In the Miike Of Time

Author: Charles Dunn ( from Clarksville, IN
17 October 2003

What a different Yakuza film. I don't care what anyone says. takashi Miike is a new force to be reckoned with. This is an in your face movie if I ever did see one. The opening five minutes lets you know that there is NO safe haven here at all. Not to mention you will NOT want to be eating spaghetti while watching it. Just take my word for it. Eat your dinner after you watch this film. The movie plays as a typical Yakuza film until the very end and then it switches to "what the heck just happened her?". That is why you must also see Dead or Alive 2 and Dead or Alive 3:Final to get the gist of it. Also recommended are Takashi Miike's Fudoh The New Generation, Ichi The Killer, and City Of Lost Souls.

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Quintessential Takashi Miike

Author: panchiralover from Stockholm, Sweden
9 July 2004

Every movie made by Miike is a completely new experience. Forget everything you have ever learned and thought about him and start all over.

Each and everyone will move the earth beneath you. It's a visual experience and very demanding on your soul. Miike tries to step over the line with every new movie.

The intro is one of the worst/best I have ever seen so far in my life. It's like life on speed! Then the movie moves into attitude, action, violence and some taboos! No other director would use as much kinky stuff as Miike does in this movie. So, if you can't stand scat and animal sex, beware!!!

Riki Takeuchi is one true great actor. He is perfect for his role. Mean and nasty and a borderline psychopath. Great Fun if you love Miike!

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