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Great opening and ending, shame about the middle
Leofwine_draca3 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
DEAD OR ALIVE is a 1999 Yakuza fable from Takashi Miike, this time feeling more like a Miike film than his earlier efforts like SHINJUKU TRIAD SOCIETY. That's because it benefits from an absolutely crazy opening and absolutely crazy ending, full of the madcap editing, grotesquery, bad taste antics, and extreme violence that the Miike of AUDITON and ICHI THE KILLER is best known for. Sadly, the middle part of this film is more like his subdued earlier Yakuza tales, following bad characters around as they do bad things, but the unlikeable characters and lack of incident made me more inclined to nod off than anything else. The larger-than-life Riki Takeuchi, of DEADLY OUTLAW: REKKA fame, plays his usual slick mobster, but it's only the energy at the outset and climax that keeps this one alive. Two sequels followed.
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Hypnotically Bizarre, Insane, Sick and Violent
claudio_carvalho19 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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The Definitive Japanese Gangster Film?
gavin694213 April 2017
A yakuza of Chinese descent and a Japanese cop each wage their own war against the Japanese mafia. But they are destined to meet. Their encounter will change the world.

Right off the bat, we get a crazy opening sequence, culminating in a clown and a naked circus act. The film is notable for Takashi Miike's characteristic scenes of ultra-violence and perversity, which come casually littered throughout. Most notoriously, an "enema bath" scene which is juxtaposed with an existential soliloquy. But even that opening suggests something insane and frantic, with one gangster even snorting an impossibly long line of cocaine.

Although Miike already had made gangster films, and Japan had a long history of making films in the genre, this one had an unusual beginning: it was inspired by "Heat", from the casting of two major J-Video stars to the meeting up in the middle of the film. Are this film's stars on the level of Pacino and DeNiro? Of course not, but the parallel is there.

What may be most interesting from a critical point of view is the ethnic aspect, which reflects on the deep history of Japanese-Chinese relations. This comes up again and again in the Black Society Trilogy, but no less so here. As Tom Mes says, this is Miike's "most overt statement on ethnic and cultural rootlessness." The idea that a Chinese-Japanese man may look Chinese or Japanese but is neither Chinese nor Japanese is very much entwined with that specific region. There simply is no equivalent in the United States. A Mexican-American is not rejected by society, for example. As the character sums up, "We're really not anything."

This really seems to be the crux of the film, and may perhaps be a story of ethnicity disguised as a gangster tale. We find that the one mother's grave is in a swamp, showing just how disrespectful society was towards her. Tom Mes says the characters "are forced to dwell on the fringes of society", literally in the swamp. The 2017 Arrow Blu-ray is an improvement over previous releases and now stands as the definitive home release. Miike expert Tom Mes is again tapped to provide insightful commentary. We also have new interviews with writer-producer Toshiki Kimura, actor Show Aikawa and actor Riki Takeuchi. There are also archival features. Arrow has not packed part two and three with as many features, but the box set as a whole is wonderful (and the interviews with Aikawa and Takeuchi can really apply to any of the three films).
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a little more of the ordinary genre effort for Miike, but still contains a few very notable, outrageous set pieces
Quinoa19848 January 2007
On the DVD for Dead or Alive, the first in the trilogy, director Takashi Miike is asked how he would describe the movie to someone who had no idea what it was about, and he describes it as an "enjoyable, healthy Yakuza movie". 'Healthy' is a word I tried to put into context with the film after seeing it, and I'm still not sure how it applies, except maybe in the sense of Miike sticking to a good deal of conventions this time around. It's definitely not that one can't see Miike's mark all over the picture, as it certainly isn't your grandfather's yakuza/crime movie (matter of fact not even John Woo). It's just that with certain elements, like the two main characters: the detective Jojima (Sho Aikawa) who's the decent, hard-nosed sort with the wife and daughter; and Ryuuichi (Riki Takeuchi), who has the face like one of those really crazy villain character actors in 40s film-noir, who wants to take over the mob in the area, by any means necessary. I felt like I could've seen some of this in any given yakuza thriller, albeit my lack of experience with the genre of "V-Cinema" in the 90s or yakuza thrillers in general.

Then again, for Miike he uses a lot of this to spring-board his own visual ideas and real tricks with the material. The way he starts to film is truly and unequivocally disorienting- I had to watch it twice just to sort of, kind of get a sense of what the hell I was watching. It gives the impression, which is both wrong and right with D.O.A., that it'll be a totally knock-your-socks-off work of gonzo film-making, where aberrant sex, brutal violence, drugs, and gangsters will always be lurking in the night (most disturbing is with the scene in the public bathroom, and then following it with the guy on the wheel-spinner being controlled by a guy on a bike). As the story goes into gear, however, this montage usage disappears, and Miike gravitates back into what one recognizes readily from his other films- fairly long takes and deep focus, and outbursts of insanely creative bits of trashy fun (highlights here include a woman who dies via pool of feces, which is actually really sick, a bit involving bestiality out of the blue, and a gigantic shoot-em-up Chinese vs Japanese battle where Ryuuichi and his gang kill both clans in one swift stroke).

Actually, seeing Miike in more genre-familiar territory isn't a bad thing, and sometimes a scene will come up that's meant to play seriously, and does, where in a lesser director would go for the cheap bits with lesser actors. An example of this is the fate of a character's brother, who betrays by taking money not really his and tries to talk his way out of it. So it's actually Miike still experimenting, though it's not a totally fulfilling trip in part because the conventions start to dull up in the middle. It's when Miike finally gets into that last third, with that wildly bloody shoot out- including both hilarious flights of fancy (a thug who was hiding comes out with a sword and goes ape-s*** all over one of the thugs) and the tragic (a character who was a surprise to show up gets killed). The fates grow darker for the detective character, who really was just looking for money somehow for an operation for his daughter. But his allegiance to the law gets put aside, and the "final scene" comes to a head.

Here Miike finally puts his 'wild-man of cinema' gears to full throttle, and it's exciting (as mentioned in trashy, violent, exploitive action-movie ways), ridiculous, and in the end jaw-droppingly funny. It's a good sign of things to come at the end, with the two big stars of V Cinema duking it out as if it's the old West again and the sheriff and outlaw have nothing to lose except for their 'special surprises' up their sleeves at the last bloody gunned down moment. What came before it wasn't all that great overall, and the first in the trilogy, even with a few sweet near X-rated touches of physical and psychological disturbance, doesn't amount to one of Miike's finest triumphs, I wouldn't of traded seeing the last three minutes of the film (final shot included) for anything. 7.5/10
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Something to offend the entire family
BandSAboutMovies24 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I have a great plan for anyone that doesn't want to gain weight over the holidays. Just watch Dead or Alive while you attempt to eat. There's a chance you may actually lose weight. A lot of weight, depending on how strong your stomach is.

If I were to describe the plot of this film, it'd be this: Ryuichi (Riki Takeuchi, veteran of tons of Japanese mafia films and also King RIKI in the beyond insane Japanese wrestling promotion HUSTLE) and his triad gang are battling for control of the Shinjuku quarter against the Yakuza, with Detective Jojima (Show Aikawa) playing every side against one another, all while he has to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for his daughter's surgery and deal with his wife cheating on him.

The tagline for this film, however, lists exactly what this is all about. 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.

There are literally seven minutes removed for the R rated cut and just discussing what is in those lost minutes would guarantee that this review wouldn't pass Amazon or IMDB standards.

But man -- the first five minutes of this film are completely unhinged. It starts with a band counting off and blasts you into a heavy blast of guitar and a woman diving off a building to her death. Excess upon excess builds, between bathroom dalliances filled with violence and blood, a thirty-foot long line of coke, strippers gyrating, clowns throwing knives at naked people, motorcycles, guns, more strippers and arterial sprays of blood.

There's also a kiddie pool filled with feces used as a killing device and an ending that literally blows up the entire world. Honestly, you may have to stop watching movies for awhile after this one to detox.

Director Takashi Miike makes little to no sense in any of his films, with none of his films ever having anything in common with one another. They're hyper-visual blasts of brutality and violence. And trust me -- they're not for everyone. There's plenty of scenes in this film that will turn the stomach of just about any filmgoer. There's something here to upset everybody.

We should assume that Alejandro Jodorowsky knows all there is to know about making incomprehensibly bonkers cinema. In a Fortean Times interview, he said, "Takashi Miike, for me, is some kind of genius in some moments, and very terrible in other moments - it's terrible! But in some moments he is incredible! I don't admire Miike Takashi completely, but I admire a piece of Takashi Miike."

There are two sequels with the only constant being Aikawa and Takeuchi in the title roles. All three are up on Shudder and you can watch the first film with and without commentary from Joe Bob Briggs.
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Its all down hill after the first ten minutes
dbborroughs16 July 2004
I was so blown away by the first ten or fifteen minutes of this movie that I had to watch it three or four times before continuing on with the rest of the film. Technically and emotionally the first part of this film is some of the most intense rapid fire visuals ever put on screen. Its so good that when its over and the film calms down, the rest of the film pales in comparison.

This is the story of two hit men and... well... frankly I don't care. I mean that opening flourish was so great I stopped caring as to what was going on. Obviously the film couldn't keep up with that level of frantic motion, but for me the film simply stopped dead until the end, but by that time I was lost and distracted.

Twelve out of Ten for the opening, 4 out of ten over all.
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the first sign Miiki would move away from gore
trashgang5 July 2012
I do follow Takashi Miiki on a regular base. Most of his flicks I do like, for example Audition (1999) I liked a lot, as did Ichi The Killer (2001). Both contained gore and horror and suspense. The one I liked most was his entry in the Masters Of Horror franchise with Imprint (2006). But now and then he makes flicks that aren't gory and do have a strange feeling with weird humor. Yatterman (2009) was a perfect example but this here is also a warning that he was changing towards weird flicks.

Although the script looked great it wasn't really my thing. It do has a flashy opening and do has a few nasty scene's that you won't forget like the dog being masturbated until it got a hard-on to penetrate a naked girl. Bestiality galore. But it also contains things that made me go say, WTF.

The acting was okay and the fight scene's did look okay. The red stuff is available and the nudity is in tact and still it didn't really got my attention. It gave me the same feeling I had with Yatterman. Luckily he (Miiki) showed me he still can deliver it, 13 Assassins (2010) was a masterpiece but Dead Or Alive, not for me.

Gore 1,5/5 Nudity 1/5 Effects 2/5 Story 3/5 Comedy 1/5
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Crazy from the very start to the incredibly over the top, big bang, ending
christopher-underwood28 June 2019
To describe this great Takashi Miike film as brash, frantic, violent and explicit, leaves one with nothing to describe the jaw-dropping opening six minutes. Crazy from the very start to the incredibly over the top, big bang, ending, this comes highly recommended. I loved the central bad boy Takeuchi Riki in his trademark dark coat and glasses but also his nemesis, the good cop, bad cop, rolled into one, played by Aikawa Sho. It is a not unfamiliar theme of the director to have immigrants (here Taiwanese) being downtrodden and forced to fight for their lives twixt the yakuza and the cops. Fabulous location shooting includes back streets of Shinjuku and Yokohama's Chinatown district plus a glimpse of the waterfront. Excellent.
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Wild Japanese action!
HumanoidOfFlesh22 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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Bizarre, yes, but really unsatisfying!
Infofreak27 August 2002
'Dead Or Alive' can't decide what kind of movie it wants to be so it ultimately fails to satisfy on any level. The much discussed sensory overload opening sequence is sensational, and for me, if the whole movie had continued at this level the movie would have been something special. Too quickly the movie slows down to a conventional pace with a rather mundane story of police life vs gang warfare, a story we have seen countless times before but done with more depth and interest. Miike's characters are shallow and impossible to care about. There are a few infamous scenes of violence or degradation which are shocking and memorable, but there aren't enough of these to stop the movie from sinking into seen-it-all-before territory. Some people have likened this to Beat Takeshi's yakuza movies but I fail to see much resemblance. 'Dead Or Alive' has a lot more in common with flashy but empty Japanese thrillers like 'Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl' albeit with a much darker tone, than a complex and meaningful work like 'Hana-bi', which is in a completely different league to this. Added to that a completely bizarre and incongruous ending that belongs in 'Tetsuo 2', and you've got yourself one unclassifiable but unsatisfying movie. Miike has an original and uncompromising approach that's beyond argument, but this time round it just didn't do it for me I'm afraid. 'Dead Or Alive' tries too hard to be different, and doesn't try hard enough to be GOOD.
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Fantastic ending
Polaris_DiB12 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"Dead or Alive" asks some interesting questions: if the audience is given 10 minutes of frenetic violence at the beginning, are they supposed to expect it at the end? If that beginning violence is highly disturbing, are they supposed to desire to see more violence at the end? And if the violence in the beginning is excessive, how far could the violence during the rest of the movie go? Technically, I'm familiar enough with Miike that I don't actually think he was all caught up in those questions--they aren't what this movie is about. The real fact of the matter is that Miike's entire success as a filmmaker has everything to do with the fact that he refuses to censor himself and he has no filter.

"Dead or Alive" has three parts: the hyper-kinetic, extremely graphic beginning; the dramatic and viscerally layered middle; and the almost comedic and cartoon-ish ending. To be sure, one could almost be disappointed in the way that the ending pretty much throws away all of the dramatic build up created by the beginning and the end. But upon second thought, of course, it's not like the ending is really required to live up to audience expectations. The two giants meet, violence occurs, the world ends. The end. It can be as simple as that.

In a way the film is a lot more interesting because the two characters go beyond the typical doppelganger aspect of the duality between good and evil and are almost literally the same person. They both are disenfranchised, they both only have enough emotional strength to care about their families, and they both have basically the same responses to trauma. So when they meet, they cancel each other out, both literally and supernaturally. This is different than the ending of Ichi the Killer, which has the same sort of twist ending (the ending exceeds expectations by subverting them), but where the opposing dualities of sadism and masochism cancel out instead.

There could also be some stuff about Chinese-Japanese relations that I could comment on, but to be perfectly honest I'm unfamiliar with how that theme has weight to those ethnicities. I think the point at which the two men say, "We look Japanese... but we aren't. We look Chinese... but we aren't," serves to illustrate the point about the actual similarities between the two leads. They look different... but they aren't. They look like one is supposed to beat the other... but they aren't.

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Another unique gangster movie from Takashi Miike's V-cinema years
kluseba18 June 2017
Dead or Alive is another classic gangster movie from Takashi Miike's early years which includes the following ingredients:

1. a brave cop as lonesome protagonist who has to take enormous risks in order to face three different groups of pitiless gangsters 2. a vicious criminal as main antagonist and his gang that are seen as outcasts and are desperately looking for attention and respect through their ambitious and violent actions 3. the topics of belonging, identity, family, friendship and loyalty that define both the protagonist and the antagonist as well as their immediate surroundings 4. numerous violent outbursts in the intense action scenes 5. nostalgic elements that portray where the antagonist and protagonist come from and how and why they have become who they are 6. several sexually explicit scenes involving prostitutes as well as the adult movie industry that portray a Japanese society that has extremely progressed from a very conservative into an overtly experimental society within a few years

As you can see, Takashi Miike's best gangster movies have an almost perfect balance between profound character and society studies on one side and explosive action, gore and sex sequences on the other side. That's why both open-minded intellectuals and adrenaline junkies will like his movies. The best audience for this type of movies would obviously be open-minded and intellectual adrenaline junkies.

There are still several elements that make the first instalment in the Dead or Alive trilogy stand out. First of all, there is the fast- paced and visually explicit opening sequence that portrays the wild life in Tokyo's special ward Shinjuku City. Takashi Miike manages to get to the point and filter the essence of this place in about five minutes and accomplishes something most documentaries that are ten or twenty times longer fail to achieve.

The second thing that stands out to me is the meeting between the protagonist and cop on one side and an adult movie producer on the other side. While they are almost casually discussing the possible identity of the antagonist who wants to control the underground by any means necessary, we can see one of the director's assistants who is masturbating a male dog before he attempts to force the animal to have sexual intercourse with a naked woman who is patiently waiting on her knees. The almost casual and neutral way Takashi Miike shows us this deviance silently portrays or maybe even criticizes the extreme evolution of Japan's society without trying to be moralizing or pretentious.

The third legendary scene is the unpredictable ending of the movie that leads to the inevitable clash between the protagonist and the antagonist. Takashi Miike is the kind of director who only writes seventy percent of his script and then gives himself and his assistants and actors the occasion to improvise on set. This is precisely what has happened in this case since Miike made up a completely new ending in a few hours and surprised everyone with this unusual conclusion to an intense yet profound movie. Some people will adore this courageous ending while others will feel that it might not fit but one has to admit that it's unique and underlines why Takashi Miike has become one of the most distinctive and respected directors in the world.

Takashi Miike's gangster movie are authentic, breathtaking, creative, entertaining, profound, shocking and unique all at once. This kind of movies was made from the mid-nineties to the early years of the new millennium. It was an essential part of the Japanese V-cinema culture. Dead or Alive and its two sequels as well Takashi Miike's Black Triad trilogy are authentic documents of this unique period of Japanese film-making. Both trilogies were recently released with new bonus material by Arrow Media and I highly recommend purchasing these boxed sets.
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The end of the movie world as we know it...
p-stepien29 August 2012
The first dive into the zany DOA universe brings us deep into mafia territory, where the Yakuza and the Triads attempt to cooperate only for a ragtag group of assassins led by Ryuuichi (Riki Takeuchi) try to derail the talks and gain power themselves. Out to stop them is well-meaning super-cop Shô Aikawa (Jojima), who has to simultaneously deal with the fatal sickness of his daughter requiring immediate expensive treatment. All else in Miike's whacked up scenario is pure unabated craziness.

The to-see movie of Takashi Miike, machine-gun director and infant terrible of art-house purists. The first of his DOA saga is perhaps the most obscene, drastic, but at the same time oddly mundane with animal sex, bathing in poop and other such monstrosities being present casually and without much warning.

To a large extent DOA: Hanzaisha seems to be a trademark Miike movie with colourful characters populating world being a weird collage of ultra-realism and comics with a subtle cerebral taste that transcends him being just another gonzo director. Probably one of Miike's most fulfilling movies.

What always surprises me most about Miike is his capability of churning out over half a dozen movies per year, keeping exceptionally high production value and with remarkably tight scripting. He does make the odd stinker now and again, but the movies that disappoint like Sukiyaki Western Django, Missed Call or Thirteen Assassins, but even in those the quality, class and cannonades of originality of its director is apparent. DOA is abundant with ideas and has high rewatchability, because of this probably becoming one of Miike's most lasting legacy. Strangely auteur for something this repulsively overboard "DOA" ends with an absolutely hilarious bang, which contradicts the more somber, down-to-earth tone of the movie, despicably (and graciously) taking audiences with him into the audacity of his no-holds-barred approach.
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Well, It's A Miike Film.
Matt_Layden20 July 2009
Takashi Miike, you son of a bitch.

I don't know how you do it, but you make me want to watch every single one of your films, knowing full well that I will most likely end up not liking it, or thinking it was mediocre. Here I am thinking that finally, yes finally, I have found a film from Miike that is a straight forward narrative that he simply cannot mess up. Dead or Alive is your basic crime thriller scenario. A cop is on the trail of a bad guy who is killing Yakuza mob bosses so he can import drugs with no competition. Of course this is Miike, so he found a way to make it totally bizarre and twisted.

I won't give away the ending, it's simply too bizarre to spell out and it comes completely out of left field that is has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film. In a way it makes the rest of the film meaningless. This was obviously he intentions, he claims that because this was the first time these two insanely popular v-cinema stars were on-screen together, he just had to come up with an explosive ending.

Now, it's the beginning and ending that are awesome and the middle part that sucks. The film is really boring and if it weren't for the one gun fight that suddenly woke me up and the one big surprise 3/4 of the way through I would have really thought this movie was a stinker. Of course I had the bastardized American version, in which a lot of the grotesque stuff was cut (including a woman drowning in her own feces, sexual acts that involve an animal and gay anal sex just before a killing. Had these scenes been in the version I had seen, I think I would have paid a bit more attention.

The first 5 minutes is a barrage of quick cuts and violent images that you don't even know what to do with yourself. The last 5 minutes is a battle of epic proportions. I'd tell you to watch the beginning and the end, but then that huge shocker at the end won't be as shocking. Then again, I can't really recommend you seeing this unless your a Miike fan and how originally bizarre his work is.

The sad thing is I still want to see some of his movies, but I know I will end up being frustrated by them.
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It's perverted, it's funny or it's just slow
stamper5 September 2004
Miike's films are just not for me I guess, I like the action and can laugh at the depicted perversions when they are funny, but after Ichi the Killer, Audition and this, I get the impression that he is not capable of making a film that is thrilling or entertaining throughout. His beginnings and endings I usually like, but I think that Miike has to learn in the middle. He is just not entertaining there and often tries to mingle drama into his surreal films. Maybe he'd be better off directing real drama's without the sickness and perversion he so clearly employs in his films. It's just a thought though, cause as far as I'm concerned Miike does not work and this one I felt worked the least of the films I saw.

5,45 out of 10 (of which ,45 points are mainly for the ending which I thought was pretty funny; a 5 out of 10 was given upon voting though)
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Miike's subversive deconstruction of the crime thriller.
ThreeSadTigers29 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In the interview for the region 2, Tartan DVD of Dead or Alive, filmmaker Takashi Miike relates the details of the film's haphazard conception; proudly stating that the film was made in reaction to the money hungry producers who approached the gonzo filmmaker with the two male leads and the basic outline of a plot - and then told him to base whatever he wanted around them - safe in the knowledge that the star power alone would be enough to make it a hit. Thus, Miike's idea of for the film was to purposely go against this notion and to fill the film with enough jaw-dropping scenes and situations as to make it incredibly difficult for the film to play to any kind of mainstream audience. In doing so, he managed to create a lucrative three-film franchise that seems to parody the kind of Yakuza-based crime stories that the director was initially known for; whilst simultaneously deconstructing the entire language of the film in a way that is both satirical and highly subversive.

Of course, this kind of cinematic excess is easy to appreciate on paper, but perhaps not so exciting for those of us looking for a "proper film"... and, if the second half of this statement relates to you, then most probably Dead or Alive is something you might want to miss (if you do want to see Miike handle a more routine crime story, then I suggest his Triad Society trilogy, including the films Shinjuku Triad Society, Lay Lines and Rainy Dog). Dead or Alive shares certain similarities to those films, but takes it to an extreme level, in which the story is heightened to an almost preposterous level; characterised by that crashing introduction which plays like the opening credits of some hard-hitting TV cop show (only featuring topless pole dancers, excessive shoot outs, high-street assassinations and kinky homosexual sex) right the way through to that jaw-dropping final; which will no doubt have the majority of viewers scratching their heads and staring blankly at the screen in shocked disbelief. Oh no, he didn't!!! Oh, but he did!!! So, we have a film that will certainly appeal to Miike's core audience of devoted followers who will try desperate to track down all of the 586 films he directs per year, but perhaps won't appeal to those unfamiliar with the broader aspects of the director's work. As other reviewers have pointed out, the film's main flaw is that it's incredibly lightweight; the kind of film made for the hell of it by a director undoubtedly having a ball trying to out do him self scene after scene after scene; as the story escalates into literally life-changing dimensions. Yes, it's often quite shocking and yes, it's often hilarious, but for me, it lacks the intellectual depth and broader artistic strokes of social satire that mark out Miike's greatest works; films such as The Bird People in China, Audition, Gozu, Visitor Q, Shinjuku Triad Society and The Happiness of the Katakuris.

Still, with that said, it is an enormous amount of fun for those in the mood, as Sho Aikawa's beleaguered detective goes head to head with Riki Takeuchi's deflected Yakuza turned Triad against a backdrop of armed-robbery, drug trafficking, deceit, honour, family and revenge. The film's main talking points are obviously the opening and closing scenes, but between that, we have more controversial Miike-touches including a number of hyper-kinetic shoot-outs, a meeting with a sleazy pornographer (including an extremely graphic bestiality joke) and the sight of one character drowned in a paddling pool of their own excrement. There's also solid performances from the two main leads, in particular Sho Aikawa - one of my favourite Japanese cult-actors - as well as a typically manic supporting role from Miike regular Renji Ishibashi, as well as the usual imaginative cinematography, evocative soundtrack (including that thumping main theme) and a complete disregard for all notions of cinematic logic.

Dead or Alive isn't classic Takashi Miike, but it's certainly typical of his style. My advice to those new to Miike would be to try films like Audition, Ichi the Killer, The Happiness of the Katakuris and the Triad Society/Black Society trilogy first before progressing onto the warped brilliance of the three Dead or Alive projects. If, however, you're already fairly familiar with Miike's work, then I'd say give this one a try. You might not love it, but you'll certainly never forget it.
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More cinematic madness and style from Takashi Miike
Bogey Man6 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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DJ Inferno7 April 2002
Takashi Miike rules! Next to his Japanese countryman Takeshi Kitano this guy made some of the greatest gems of 1990s cinema! Especially beginning and ending of this gem are very experimental and nearly impossible to categorize! But in comparison to the artistic symbolic language of Kitano, Miike´s works are much more radical: "Dead or Alive" is a great example for a film with silent moments and long dialogue sequences, which stand in a gross contrast to heavy violence, dirty sex and other obscurities! Once more the director breaks taboos whenever he can, so conservative people will hate "Dead or Alive" like the plague! However those, who are open-minded enough will get a great movie experience that beats all those annoyingly overrated so-called Hollywood-masterpieces easily! Loved the video clip style and the showdown is almost unbelievable! To give away the punch line would be a crime, you have to see this with your own eyes!
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Over the top violent and fun gangster movie.
stormruston16 August 2005
This movie starts out very fast paced, with crazy violent sequences mixed in with drugs and nudity for about 15 minutes straight, then it slows into a fast paced gangster/cop movie.It was a fun ride.

The basic story is a broke cop needs money, a bunch of assassins want to take over the drug trade from the Chinese and Japanese,and lots of people die while these groups try to fulfill their gaols.

The acting was good, and generally either over the top or understated as it should be in a movie like this.The bullet fights looked great,and blood flew every were.

This movie is worth watching just to see one of the strangest endings ever made to a gangster movie.

A bloody fun ride.
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Outrageous film about japanese gang war.
senortuffy11 October 2003
This is one far out movie. The first five minutes set the pace, and it's a fast one.

A girl falls out of the sky and crashes onto a car parked outside a yakuza nightclub. Cut to go-go girls gyrating half naked inside. Some dude is gobbling down bowls of food at a frantic pace. Another guy's snorting a line of coke twenty feet long.

Some bad guys pick up machine guns in a grocery store and approach the nightclub. The head guy is handed a shotgun by a clown walking down the street. Bad guys enter nightclub, surround the yakuza boss and shoot him. Then they spray the place with bullets. Head guy hops on top of car taking another important guy away and shotguns him through the roof.

This is one wild and violent movie about a gang of outsiders taking on the yakuza in order to control the drug trafficking in Yokohama. A police lieutenant goes after the gang of newcomers who are shooting the place up and destroying the balance. The final shootout between the two adversaries is pretty strange and surreal.

The opening carnage lends one to compare this film with John Woo's "Lashou shentan" ("Hard Boiled"), but the styles are completely different. Woo's films are almost operatic in the way they present the violence, and the characters are shown as heroic.

Takashi Miike is unsentimental in his approach, and the pacing is much more frenetic. There's also an element of humor in the depiction of violence - some of the characters are just plain weird and the action is over the top at times. There's almost a punk attitude to this film, like nothing is to be taken too seriously and everything is quick and hip. It's what Quentin Tarantino aspires to in his films but doesn't quite achieve because of his wallowing in self-importance.

There are probably some nuances of japanese culture I'm missing in the story, but overall this is a very entertaining film.
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What? What? What?
labng23 April 2021
Somebody definitely slipped something into my drink...
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No FUDOH or AUDITION here - Miike bites the dust - sad
macabro35710 August 2003

Well I wound up seeing this one after I saw Takashi Miike's CITY OF THE LOST SOULS and while this one starts to veer in that direction, at least it still has some coherence once you get past the first 10 minutes or so.

Unfortunately, Miike is also joining the bad trend of arty camerawork that's happening in cinema all over the world. All in the name of showing the viewer something new by using flashy camerawork and excessive cgi in order to put the stamp of "art" on it. Sometimes it works, but most of the time it comes across as looking contrived and forced.

The plot consists of a gangwar between the Yakuza and Chinese immigrants (I didn't know the Japanese allowed the Chinese to immigrate to Japan) over the Tokyo dope trade (I didn't know Tokyo had a dope trade since illicit drugs are a rarity in Japan) and other assorted vice.

It seems to be one-sided since a lot of Yakuza are getting killed while the Chinese are allowed to flourish, unfettered. Except for a Tokyo cop who stands in the way of the Chinese gang by seizing their dope, who in turn has his wife and sick daughter killed in a car bomb for his efforts.

The ending in an empty field looks like something out of a cgi cartoon. Utterly ridiculous. Totally implausible. Talk about insulting the intelligence of your audience...

In the DVD extra, Miike says he tacked the ending on to throw off the audience with what's been happening the previous hour & forty-five minutes. He even giggles about it on camera.

Huh? Well, what-ev-er...

3 out of 10
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Might actually be one of my favorite Miike pieces
scobbah22 March 2006
Buckle up and prepare as Miike action is heading your way! Litres of blood, tons of violence and some Yakuza grooves all accompanied by a very well-sounding soundtrack. It's fat, heavy and drop-dead beautiful.

I believe Miike did it again with "Dead Or Alive", and it might actually be one of my favorite Miike pieces that I've seen. "Dead Or Alive" is original in many ways and it's evident from the very beginning of the movie. Filled up with surprises to the max, this piece gives its viewer a joyful experience for an hour and 40 minutes where there is no room to relax. There's simply so much to enjoy here so why don't you dig in and rent this one today? I won't give any spoilers away here but darn, the development of the plot was at times really weird - in a good way! I believe the sequences in Miike's films are one of his strongest trademarks. Thumbs up, hats off.
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does it matter which version?
jimi9924 October 2005
Having rented this DVD from a video chain store, I got the edited version with some of the over-the-top gross-out scenes, as described by other IMDb reviewers, cut from the still-quite-amazing opening sequence, but I quickly got over it and appreciated the movie as one of Miike's wild and at the same time well-crafted stories. The cat and mouse narrative of the freelance gangster and the cop seemed to have possibly influenced Mann and his "Heat." But then the ending just flips out, reminding me more of "Repo Man" except that Cox's film at least had some sort of internal logic to justify such an ending, where "Dead or Alive" just comes out of the blue with its big freakout. I haven't seen the other DOA's but understand they have the same characters, so what really happened there anyway? I saw this the week after seeing "Bird People in China" so really appreciate what an eclectic and experimental director Miike is. I've also seen "Gozu" "Audition" and "Ichi," and give them all the highest rating except for "Ichi," which was just silly...
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Dead or Alive Review.
Ben-Hibburd2 December 2017
Takashi Miike had definitely cemented himself as an auteur by the time this film had come out. This film for better or worse reaffirms his status as one of the most outlandish, genuinely bonkers directors working today. Within the first minute of the film we get a crime riddled montage filled with over the top gore and violence. Featuring and not limited too a naked woman plummeting to her death with a bag of cocaine that explodes upon impact. A crazed mafia boss doing a fifteen foot line of coke, that would be more then enough to put an elephant into a catatonic shock!

What then follows is a pretty tame (by Miike's standard) Yakuza story about two gangs at war and the cops in the middle. There's not really much to say about the plot other then it was fine for what it was. However after a 'shocking' turn of events (which was fairly obvious) the film builds to a truly bizarre shoot-out between the two main characters that would make even David Lynch say WTF?!

Within the first couple of minutes the film (as with most of Miike's) the directing and editing is so outlandish you either role your eyes in derision or you jump on board for a wild ride, unfortunately I found myself in the former.
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