In 1999, famed Japanese director Takashi Miike released “Dead or Alive” and the hard-hitting movie about drugs, sex, mafia and the underground was a huge hit. It inspired another pair of movies to make “Dead or Alive” a series, which is now being reissued in one package from Arrow Video.
The series begins with the original “Dead or Alive” film with Ryuichi (Riki Takeuchi) and his gang trying to overtake the drug business in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. To do this, Ryuichi and his thugs engage in an all-out bloody battle with the current drug kingpins. As blood flows in the streets, detective Jojima (Sho Aikawa) steps in and tries to halt the bloodshed. But the good detective might have a hand in the drug business himself.
In the second film, entitled “Dead or Alive 2: Birds” there is a twist to the storyline, which frankly I didn’t get. Takeuchi and Aikawa are back in the leading roles, but are playing different characters from the original film. The two are enemy yakuza killers who were once childhood friends. But when a hit goes bad, Ryuichi and Jojima return to their childhood neighborhood and realize they can use their skills for good and not evil.
The third film in the trilogy is “Dead or Alive: Final.” Takeuchi and Aikawa are once again reprising their roles as Ryuichi and Jojima, but this film takes place in the future with cyber gangs, cyborg soldiers, and multilingual gangs. Again, bloodshed ensue as our hero’s battle evil at all costs.
The “Dead or Alive” trilogy is partially ridiculous, but unique at the same time. From the opening six-minute montage of sex, drugs and violence, director Takashi Miike establishes himself as a film maker who balances the provocative with the outrageous, his innovative format with the surreal, showing he doesn’t play by the rules and puts his own vision into his films.