Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha (1999) - Another unique gangster movie from Takashi Miike's V-cinema years - 8/10 (18/06/17)
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.« Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive trilogyDead or Alive 2: Tôbôsha (2000) - One of Takashi Miike's most realistic, nostalgic and appeasing movies - 7/10 (18/06/17) »
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