Dead or Alive: Final Movie Review
Written by Rosie Fletcher
DVD released by Tartan UK
Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Hitoshi Ishikawa and Yoshinobu Kamo
2007, Region 2 (PAL), 89 minutes
Riki Takeuchi as Officer Honda
Show Aikawa as Ryo
Richard Chen as Dictator Woo
Josie Ho as Jun
Tony Ho as Ping
Dead or Alive: Final — and thank goodness this is the final part — is the third in a trilogy of weird martial arts/yakuza movies by prolific, taboo-busting director Takashi Miike. All three films (Dead or Alive, Dead or Alive: Birds and this film) star Riki Takeuchi and Show Aikawa as opposing leads. In the first film, they were a gangster and a cop, respectively, where in this final instalment the rolls are swapped. Aikawa is Ryô , a renegade cyborg who hooks up with a gang of rebels, Takeuchi is Honda, a cop for a corrupt, totalitarian regime. In this dystopian future, all citizens are given compulsory birth control. Ryô helps the rebels kidnap Honda’s son to secure the release of political prisoners, who subsequently turn on the gang for no apparent reason in a gun battle, which results in their deaths as well as that of the rebel leader.
Set in 2047, Miike’s vision of the future is noticeably lacking in imagination. Other than a couple of token, animated spaceships (which have no relevance and aren’t the in the slightest bit convincing), Japan in the future looks just like Japan in the present. Dead or Alive: Final is an action/sci-fi flick with plenty of gun battles and martial arts displays, strange humour, and a rock soundtrack. It references (or steals unashamedly from — depending how you look at it) films like The Matrix and Blade Runner. It also has a vague feminist agenda, a thematic interest in family, and a certain amount of sentimentality.
Sometimes surreal and kind of interesting but more often silly and incoherent, Miike’s film does have a few great scenes and few a decent fights, but overall it feels disjointed and lacking in impact. While the first DOA film isn’t one of Miike’s finest, it’s pacey, stylish and cool. Takashi Miike is known for his shocking, off-beat movies, but apart from the self-consciously odd finale, Dead or Alive: Final is decidedly pedestrian. While in DOA, Takeuchi looked kind of troubled and cool, he now looks big haired and plump in a camp ‘80s way. Perhaps Takeuchi, Aikawa and Miike himself are just getting a bit old for all this.
Miike is an incredibly prolific director. When you make around five films a year, it’s no surprise that they’re not all masterpieces. Dead or Alive: Final feels laboured, tired and lacking in imagination. It feels like Miike going through the motions, and the shock ending, that audiences will no doubt be expecting after the high-impact ending of the original Dead or Alive movie, is just a little bit embarrassing. It’s the equivalent of Johnny Rotten on “I’m a Celebrity”. The director who brought you Audition, Ichi the Killer and Visitor Q is stuck for an ending. His audience wants shocks, verve, thrills, controversy. What’s he going to pull out of the bag for the conclusion to the trilogy?
All Takashi Miike can come up with is a huge penis and testicles and hopes he’s done enough. He hasn’t. Only Miike completists need bother with this film.
Extras, picture and sound won’t be rated, as this was a screener.