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I've seen most of Ryuhei Kitamura's work and I've come to the conclusion that he has a knack for action. Scenes are kinetic and fast often combining elements of martial arts, gun fights and samurai fights with camera work that effectively captures the on screen carnage. With "Versus" and "Aragami" Kitamura demonstrated that creativity and showed that he his more than capable of working with a low budget. So what happened in "Alive" ? To be more blunt, the answer would be - nothing. Nothing happened in "Alive" it was a two hours plus movie with little to no action and little to no characters and plot.
Adapted from a comic book by Tsutomu Takahashi "Alive" is an examination of the life of one Tenshu Yashiro (played by Hideo Sasaki) a death row convict who survives his execution. He is then given a choice of either to repeat the execution or to subject himself in a bizarre series of experiments. He chooses the latter and soon after that is placed in a room along with a rapist and later with a girl infected with a strange parasite that in exchange for it's host's humanity grants supernatural powers. Naturaly at some point that parasite moves into Yashiro, the bad thing is that doesn't happen very soon.
Similar to "Aragami", "Alive" sets it's first half in establishing the basic exposition. Characters are introduced, their motivations are set and their relations between each other are uncovered. The whole thing even takes place in just one set. The first major problem of that comparison is that while "Aragami" was just a 70 minute movie, "Alive" drags on for more than two hours thus making the first part over one hour long. That length could have been justified had the characters been made a bit more interesting but alas that is not the case. Dialogue is dry, monotonous, delivered without any sense of emotion or depth, characters themselves aren't much interesting. There were some small attempts at making "Alive" a bit more moral ambiguous but in the end it all came down to the classic : evil government people against, super-powered protagonist, whom yes you guessed it, saves the girl in the end. Like I previously said the entire film practically takes place at just one set, and after two hours that does get boring, even worse the set design itself wasn't even interesting to begin with, and doesn't do much to improve on other aspects of the film.
Now, after that first part is over, one might think that Kitamura would at least make some entertaining action scenes to make up for the boring beginning. Sadly that is not the case. The two only fights are actually rehashes of similar fights from Hollywood movies, complete with bullet time effects and psychic powers. They're just not interesting or fun, Kitamura's creativity from "Versus" is gone, the small set even limits his often very impressive camera-work and it all boils down into generic and expectable fights, a shame really.
Evidently "Aragami" was better on all accounts and "Kitamura" had learned something from "Alive". So it wasn't at least a total loss watching this movie. If only to understand the errors made, how to fix them and create a better more entertaining movie.
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