Dead or Alive

Executive producers, Mitsuru Kurosawa, Tsutomu Tsuchikawa.

Executive producers, Mitsuru Kurosawa, Tsutomu Tsuchikawa.

Directed by Takashi Miike. Screenplay, Ichiro Ryu. Camera (color), Hideo Yamamoto; editor, Taiji Shimamura; music, Kouji Endou; art director, Akira Ishige. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (No Cherry Blossoms: Visions of Japan), Jan. 31, 2000. Running time: 104 MIN.

With: Riki Takeuchi, Show Aikawa, Renji Ishibashi, Hitoshi Ozawa, Shingo Turumi, Kaoru Sugita, Dankan, Hirotaro Honda, Susumu Terajima, Michisuke Kashiwaya, Mizuho Kouga, Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi, Kyousuke Yabe, Tomorowo Taguchi, Ren Oshugi.

Prolific Japanese shockmeister Takashi Miike — whose “Audition” was the head-turning standout of three films by the director presented in Rotterdam — delivers an adrenaline-charged, anarchic thriller with more flash than finesse in “Dead or Alive.” Bookended by a dizzying opening reel of hyperspeed action and a truly bizarre conclusion that veers unexpectedly into fantasy territory, the film’s undisciplined midsection is a disappointingly pedestrian cops-vs.-yakuza tale that adds little to the well-trodden genre it’s supposedly subverting. Given the cult appeal of this kind of ultraviolence, specialized video sales may follow.

Impressively cut opening burns through almost an entire narrative of killings in Tokyo’s crime-infested Shinjuku quarter, where yakuza gangsters, Chinese Mafia and corrupt cops vie for supremacy. Central conflict, however, is between ruthless mobster Ryuichi (Riki Takeuchi) and Jojima (Show Aikawa), a cop drawn into criminal fraternization to finance an operation on his daughter. Laced with scenes of incidental cruelty and perversion, the buildup to their (literally) apocalyptic showdown is only intermittently coherent. Visuals, courtesy of “Hana-bi” d.p. Hideo Yamamoto, are slick and arresting and the energized soundtrack keeps things ticking throughout.

Dead or Alive

(JAPAN)

Production: A Daiei Co./Toei Video Co. production. (International sales: Tokuma Intl., Tokyo.) Produced by Katsumi Ono, Makoto Okada, Toshiki Kimura.

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