Plot: What’s it about?
The films of maverick director Takashi Miike have electrified fans of eccentric cinema worldwide, with shocks, intense visuals, and an avalanche of unexpected turns. Here in America, we have been forced to import most of Miike’s releases, but thanks to Kino, we can mark off some Miike’s most sought after pictures. Kino has released Miike’s Dead or Alive trilogy, with all three films uncut and in their intended forms, widescreen and original source language. These movies have been discussed to no end on internet forums, which means they’ve also been hyped beyond belief, so do the Dead or Alive films live up to their reputations? I can understand why some folks would say no, as these movies aren’t for everyone, but I loved all three films in this series and would recommend them without hesitation. The first two movies are phenomenal and loads of fun to watch, while the third is the weakest installment, though still worthwhile. Kino’s discs have minimal supplements, but look and sound good, which is what matters. So for fans of unusual cinema, I more than recommend Kino’s release of the Dead or Alive films. Below you can read a brief synopsis on each film, but words just don’t do these movies justice!
Dead or Alive- Ryuchi (Riki Takeuchi) is detached from the world, except for his loyal band of strange assassins. He is heavily involved in underworld crime, but has no real ties to the yakuza or any other organizations. As such, he eyes the drug trade and decides it can be seized, if he and his men can handle the situation just so. At the same time, a worn and tired cop named Jojima (Show Aikawa) feels as though he is about to bottom out. He has run out of money and in order to fund his daughter’s healthcare needs, he turns to corrupt sources. Jojima finds himself in the center of Ryuichi’s battle with the yakuza, which is a dangerous place to be. When the two men’s world collide into each other, who will be left standing?
Dead or Alive 2- Mizuki Otamako (Show Aikawa) is a skilled hitman, an assassin who never misses his mark. His bold colored shirts and shocking blonde hair might seem unusual, but his results are proven and his reputation is golden. He takes his orders from an independent crime boss, one who operates outside of the local Japanese and Chinese factions. Otamako’s latest assignment seems simple enough, to gun down a kingpin from a good distance off, not a high risk mission by any means, or so he thinks. Another assassin beats him to the punch however, a former friend of his to be exact, which leads to a rekindled friendship. But with triads and yakuza hot on their heels, will the two live long enough to stroll down memory lane?
Dead or Alive: Final- Yokohama has turned into a government state, where the cruel Dictator Woo rules over with an iron fist. His laws are extreme and often unjust, even denying his citizens the right to procreate as they please. These rigid laws are enforced by a ruthless police force, including one of its finest agents, Honda (Riki Takeuchi). There is endless rebellion, but an alliance of criminals and rebels isn’t a stable one. The rebels manage to kidnap Honda’s son in an unexpected turn of events, which means the supercop is on the warpath. In his path is Ryo (Show Aikawa), an android with a bad temper that his own agenda. In this final installment of Dead or Alive, what will become of this world turned upside-down?
Video: How does it look?
Dead or Alive & Dead or Alive 2 are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, while Dead or Alive: Final is 1.85:1 non anamorphic widescreen. Kino states that Dead or Alive: Final’s lack of anamorphic enhancement is due to the available elements, which seems accurate, since no other releases have been. All three of this movies were shot on video, which means the visuals don’t have the kind of refinement we’re used to, but these presentations from Kino allow the material to look as good as possible. I saw no serious nicks or debris to mention, while grain is light at worst and never poses a problem. The colors are bold and wild, which is good since these movies love those rich hues, though contrast isn’t as stark as I would like. This could be due to the source elements however, so I won’t complain too much. Of course, the third film is the least impressive thanks to the lack of an anamorphic transfer, but it still looks solid, given the material. All in all, I don’t think we could ask much more from Kino, as these movies look quite good.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original Japanese soundtracks have been preserved, but don’t expect too much in terms of dynamic presence. These movies are loaded with over the top scenes, action sequences, and all kinds of outlandish moments, but the audio remains rather reserved. So it would be nice to have full 5.1 surround tracks to be sure, but in the end, these flicks can function with basic treatments, as long as the audio is well presented. And these soundtracks are well presented, as all of the elements come across in acceptable fashion. The dialogue is clear, the music is loud, and the sound effects have as much punch as possible. Not a whole lot more we can demand, as these movies sound as good as we can expect them to. All three movies also include optional English subtitles, in case you don’t speak Japanese.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release includes an interview with Takashi Miike, as well as theatrical trailers for all three films in the series.