Deadball Blu-ray Review
Directed by Yudai Yamaguchi
Written by Keita Tokaji and Yudai Yamaguchi
2011, Region A, 99 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on April 9th, 2013
Tak Sagakuchi as Jubeh
Miho Ninagawa as Ishihara
Mari Hoshino as “Four Eyes”
Ryosei Tayama as Governor Mifune
The Pterodactyl Juvenile Reformatory is a despicable nightmare of a place where the residents may be criminals, but they are not the worst thing behind these walls. The teenagers are routinely abused by the guards, the food is a daily menu of the staff's vomit, and Ishihara, the headmistress/warden, is an overbearing Nazi. There is one chance at a better life however, because a baseball team is being assembled for an upcoming tournament. Ishihara has her sights set on Jubeh, a recent addition sentenced to the facility for a series of crimes that some in the public view as vigilante justice against thugs that have eluded the police.
Jubeh once held a promising future in baseball, but he swore off the game following a family tragedy. The headmistress threatens to have his cellmate killed unless he agrees to join the prison baseball Juvie-League. He reluctantly agrees under the conditions that the food quality improve and that all team players receive full pardons after the games. What no one knows however is that the rival St. Black Dahlia High School team is made up of players known as the “Psycho Butcher Girls” and the actual goal of the game is to rack up as many violent deaths possible until all of the members on one team are eliminated.
Deadball is a gonzo film where every opportunity to shock, upset or offend the audience is embraced to the level of exhaustion. The production company Sushi Typhoon delivers a brand of entertainment that fans will recognize as being heavily influenced by Lloyd Kaufman's Troma Entertainment. The budgets are low, the acting abilities are not much higher and the gallons of bloodshed are unbelievable. Everything plays out at an obnoxious level where at times it feels like the content is simply laid out in a stream of consciousness, forcing viewers to simply accept the images and move on. There is very little concern for a narrative plot, instead this is a seemingly random series of events that plays out from one set piece to the next until the movie abruptly ends.
There is an abundance of slapstick comedy that quickly overstays its welcome, but there is also a lot of cartoon violence that surprisingly elevates the creativity of the effects. The makeup is better than expected from a low-budget splatter comedy, but the physical gore is neutralized by excessive amounts of shoddy CGI blood. It is difficult to say how entertaining the film really is, since so much energy is spent on gross-out comedy that viewers are numbed by the time the non-Japanese Nazis show up for additional mayhem. There are a lot of missed opportunities on display, and frequently extensive buildups receive little payoff. The “Psycho Butcher Girls” are gorgeous to look at but don't really do much once they arrive and are not even the main antagonists-they mostly kill time until the real baddie shows up.
The two elements that are working at capacity to carry this picture are director Yudai Yamaguchi (Yakuza Weapon), and star Tak Sagakuchi (Versus).The two reunite for a companion piece to their earlier effort Battlefield Baseball (2003), in which Sagakuchi played a similar character with the same name, although this time he is dressed as a renegade from a spaghetti western. There are many similar aspects between Baseball and Deadball and to be fair, Yamaguchi has grown as a director over the past decade, with a stronger eye for visual composition. There is still too much reliance on the “kitchen sink” approach and while the CGI has improved, it is still an overused crutch. The best jokes in the film are the simplest, including the running gag of Sagakuchi's endless supply of promptly delivered cigarettes. He really is an actor deserving better work than these films.
Deadball is goofy, loud, brash, absurd and annoying, but it is never mean spirited. Yamaguchi spends too much time showing how politically incorrect he can be at the expense of proper pacing, but is determined to deliver the goofy gory goods. It is easy to point out what is wrong with this movie, but on some level it is moderately entertaining. For anybody looking to show some friends a gross-out baseball splatter film, I can recommend this one, because there aren't very many titles like this, so knock yourselves out kids.
Video and Audio:
Deadball receives a respectable video transfer presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Colors are quite strong and black levels are solid, but the limitations of the budget become quite evident with the clarity of the image.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix is surprisingly aggressive with a real workout given to the surround speakers and not just during the numerous action set pieces. The film is presented in the original Japanese language with English subtitles provided.
Well Go USA includes a nice selection of special features, including a trailer gallery for additional titles in the Sushi Typhoon catalog.
First up is the short film Final Deadball (20 minutes), a surprisingly restrained companion piece to the feature that plays like an episode of The Twilight Zone.
A brief making of (12 minutes) piece offers subtitled footage taken from the set during the production.
A collection of cast interviews (7 minutes) provides a series of stock questions with answers from several of the actors.
The original trailer for Deadball concludes the special features.