Blu-ray Review Dead or Alive (Trilogy)

Takashi Miike has that extra gear that allows him to blow away expectation over his long career as Japan’s most notorious director. Audition, Visitor Q and Ichi the Killer made him a legend as they pushed comfort levels of the audience. He is extremely prolific over his career putting out more films than many movie studios over the last quarter of a century. He makes America’s independent directors look so lazy. After his Black Triad trilogy, Miike made another cinematic threesome under the titled Dead or Alive. The three films don’t share a plot or theme, but do have Show Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi going head to head. The two actors were major stars of Japan’s straight to video market like William Katt and Andrew Stevens. Miike pits them against each other like heavyweight boxing champs. Dead or Alive: Trilogy contains all three films.

Dead or Alive (1999 – 105 minutes) starts out with a opening montage that lets the action fly between numerous spots around Tokyo. There’s a strip club, a business man doing a line of cocaine that must be 30 feet long and people getting blasted away including the guy who just did all that cocaine. Turns out that Ryuuichi (Riki Takeuchi) and his gang are making a massive power crab. His group of killers are intense in work and play. He’s just an amazing bad ass who doesn’t mind jumping up on a car to get a better shotgun blast into his victim. Jojima (Show Aikawa) is the local cop assigned to the case. He’s got to bring law to the land that’s being turned into a killing floor by Ryuuichi. While the editing pace does slow down, the tensions never let up as the two men must cross paths with guns blazing.

Dead or Alive 2: Birds (2000 – 97 minutes) delves into Show Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi play a pair of contract hitmen who end up on the same gig. The duo realize they were boyhood pals. The guys unknowingly botch their job and head back to their old hometown to remember old times. This makes their present bosses very upset that they did’t finish the job. The duo decide to put their cold blooded ways to work by teaming up. There’s a bunch of weirdness involving birds including the guys gaining wings in one scene.

Dead or Alive: Final (2002 – 98 minutes) has Show Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi showdown in a future Hong Kong. The duo are now androids with one supporting the fascist government that’s running a decaying civilization while the other fights for the uprising. There’s a few big special effects in the film shot on standard definition video, but mostly the future is achieved by simple tricks and a yellow tint to the frame. The two do have plenty of massive fights as the fate of humanity and androidity is at stake.

The three films that make up Dead Or Alive might confuse people who expect some sort of Lord of the Rings trilogy. But what matters most is in all three films Show Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi are badasses. It’s hard to really root against either one of their characters. It’s less about them winning and more about seeing how they go to town on each other. Miike amps up the action between them to make sure everyone is a winner after the three rounds of Dead or Alive.

The videos is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfers for the first two films. The third film has a lower resolution since it was shot and edited using Standard Definition Video. Probably made it easier for any special effects shot. The audio is uncompressed stereo audio. Things soound fine in Japanese especially when the bullets fly and the speed metal kicks up the volume. The films are subtitled in English.

Toshiki Kimura: Drifting with Miike (43:43) is the producer reflecting on his time with the director. The two went to the same film school, but didn’t work with each other until years later to make a straight to video movie.

Riki Takeuchi: Deadly Outlaw Riki (30:28) has him reflect on his career including the DOA films. He explains V-Cinema and its impact on his career. He has starred in over 200 of the home video titles.

Sho Aikawa: Cop, Killer, Replicant (22:47) has him talk about the extreme action stunts that Miike wants from them. Miike would have a stunt man, but get his actors to pull off the scenes.

Audio commentary for Dead or Alive by Miike biographer Tom Mes. He sets the stage for how he saw the movie at a film festival. He kept the ticket stub. He breaks down the opening montage.

DOA Final: Promotional Interviews (11:00) has the cast talk about the final showdown in the series,

DOA Final: Mystery Trailer (1:39) is an odd animated trailer for the film. This is truly bizarre.

DOA Final: Theatrical Trailer (1:07) sums up the first two films before opening up with the final showdown between the two.

DOA2: Birds (10:17) features behind-the-scenes coverage of the film. They show a scene from the video camera and the film. Miike talks as fast as his films. You get a sense of the tight crew working with Miikie.

DOA Final: Original Making-of Featurette (11:25) covers the rituals before making the film in Hong Kong. They celebrated with a roasted pig.

DOA US Trailer (1:42) is wonderful choatic. “Prepare for the movie that gives until it hurts” is the promise.

DOA Japanese Trailer (1:19) explodes off the screen. It seems a bit more serene. Although it teases with “The Climax will blow your mind.”

DOA 2: Theatrical Trailer (1:25) has plenty of feathers and bullets.

Arrow Video presents Dead Or Alive: Trilogy. Directed by: Takashi Miike. Screenplay by: Ichiro Ryu, Masa Nakamura, Hitoshi Ishikawa, Yoshinobu Kamo, Ichiro Ryu. Starring: Show Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi. Boxset Contents: 3 movies on 2 discs. Rated: R. Released: April 11, 2017.

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