Blu-ray Movie Review – Dead or Alive Trilogy

Dead or Alive Trilogy
Dead or Alive
Original Year of Release: 1999
Dead or Alive 2: Birds
Original Year of Release: 2000
Dead or Alive 3: Final
Original Year of Release: 2002
Directed by Takashi Miike
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Blu-ray Release Date: April 11, 2017

I’ve sung the praises for director Takashi Miike several times already here on Shattered Ravings, and today’s entry allows me to do so once again. This time, we are looking at three iconic films that truly put him on the map. THE BLACK SOCIETY TRILOGY (which I reviewed earlier this year…click here to read that review) introduced Miike to the mainstream film public; but it was the DEAD OR ALIVE trilogy that allowed him to flex his creative muscles and show his vivid imagination.

Because of their dark (and sometimes wrongly humorous) nature, many folks will probably not enjoy these films. But if you like off-the-wall action and crazy intensity like me, then you’ll love the DEAD OR ALIVE TRILOGY.

If you are not familiar with the DEAD OR ALIVE TRILOGY, here is the set’s description courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution:

Beginning with an explosive, six-minute montage of sex, drugs and violence, and ending with a phallus-headed battle robot taking flight, Takashi Miike’s unforgettable Dead or Alive Trilogy features many of the director’s most outrageous moments set alongside some of his most dramatically moving scenes. Made between 1999 and 2002, the Dead or Alive films cemented Miike’s reputation overseas as one of the most provocative enfants terrible of Japanese cinema, yet also one of its most talented and innovative filmmakers.

In Dead or Alive, tough gangster Ryuichi (Riki Takeuchi) and his ethnically Chinese gang make a play to take over the drug trade in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district by massacring the competition. But he meets his match in detective Jojima (Show Aikawa), who will do everything to stop them. Dead or Alive 2: Birds casts Aikawa and Takeuchi together again, but as new characters, a pair of rival yakuza assassins who turn out to be childhood friends; after a botched hit, they flee together to the island where they grew up, and decide to devote their deadly skills to a more humanitarian cause. And in Dead or Alive: Final, Takeuchi and Aikawa are catapulted into a future Yokohama ruled by multilingual gangs and cyborg soldiers, where they once again butt heads in the action-packed and cyberpunk-tinged finale to the trilogy.

Each of them unique in theme and tone, the Dead or Alive films showcase Miike at the peak of his strengths, creating three very distinct movies connected only by their two popular main actors, each film a separate yet superb example of crime drama, character study, and action filmmaking.

One of the most wonderful aspects of these films is the difference in their styles. Whereas all three feature the same two actors, the look and feel of each film is distinctly different. The original DEAD OR ALIVE film is dark and gritty for the most part; the second film is lighter and “airier”; while the third looks like typical science fiction fare. I am truly impressed with how Miike is able to achieve different tones in each of the three pieces.

Each film is shot well and looks great onscreen. The HD transfers do all three justice, and the results are clear pictures with quality sound. I don’t recall any grainy scenes or muted sound effects, therefore I highly suggest the Blu-ray format here.

The acting in each film is great, with Riki Takeuchi and Show Aikawa headlining all three cast lists. Takeuchi and Aikawa give great performances, and they show great diversity in their acting abilities as a result. Each film’s supporting cast does a fine job as well.

The special effects in the TRILOGY are over the top, and they look great. There’s quite a bit of bloodshed in the first film, however it tapers off after that. The gore we do get in part one is excellent, however, and very realistic. The cyborgs in part three look good for the most part, yet the battle robot looked a bit too cartoonish for me.

If I were forced to pick a favorite film out of the three, I’d probably have to say the first one. For some reason, it struck a nerve with me, and I enjoyed it the most out of the trilogy.

Still, you cannot deny how much fun the DEAD OR ALIVE TRILOGY offers. The vast differences in each film make this collection a rare gem of avant-garde filmmaking. The result is a set of movies you must see to believe. The DEAD OR ALIVE TRILOGY is a fine example of a master at work. Make a note to check them out soon.

• High Definition digital transfers of all three films
• Original uncompressed stereo audio
• Optional English subtitles for all three films
• New interview with actor Riki Takeuchi
• New interview with actor Sho Aikawa
• New interview with producer and screenwriter Toshiki Kimura
• New audio commentary for Dead or Alive by Miike biographer Tom Mes
• Archive interviews with cast and crew


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