After the quiet reflective tone of Sandy Lives, I was jolted into hyper reality by this Miike Takashi double trouble celluloid gross fest.
My only other dalliance with Miike is The Happiness of the Katakuris so in my well-informed and knowledgeable opinion, after viewing a mere three films by Miike-san, I have come to the conclusion that his films always open with a bang.
The first 10 min always kicks arse — in Happiness of the Katakuris, it was a wicked animated short. In Dead or Alive 1 — it’s a maelstrom of snappy, in-your-face montages edited to a rocking soundtrack. In fact, if you pay close attention, you will get the idea of the tone and story of it, you might not need to see the film at all! There’s the stripper in black leather, a guy in business suit snorting a metre of coke, some dude gorging on endless bowls of ramen, crazy couple making out somewhere, a peroxided blond guy having sex with another guy in a toilet who then ends up with his throat punctured by a gangster in a kimono who has a day job of a clown[!]. The whole piece de-resistance ends with the dude eating ramen being shot in the guts by another gangster, plastering the screen with chewed up, half digested bits of ramen. Welcome to the twisted world of Miike Takashi, you’re in for some classy entertainment.
Miike Takashi, one of Japan’s most prolific directors, has completed 42 features, shorts and docos and makes up to 7 movies a year. Prolific but does that mean quality? I mean, look at Wong Jing. Come to think of it those two share many similarities… but I digress.
So the first 10 min is great but what about the rest of the movie? Well, it’s rather unfortunate but the rest of the movie doesn’t quite live up to the super energetic beginning. There’s not much of a plot to speak of, just many violent, wickedly funny and really gross segments strung together. I lied, there is some semblance of a narrative but it’s so disposable and loose that I’m sure no one in the audience bought it. If you did, you probably enjoyed it a lot more.
The second instalment of Dead or Alive: Birds [they are not sequels] feels like what he was trying to achieve with the first one — the rhythm of the DOA 2 is much easier to get into and by far more consistent. It’s positively mild in the offensive-meter next to DOA 1 but also a lot funnier. The only similarity is the actors [and a loose thread about Chinese vs Japanese triads] — Riki Takeuchi and Sho Aikawa. Takeuchi with his trademark brylcreemed coif, baritone voice, trenchcoat and crooked grimace is at once a send-up of the stereotype yakuza gangster and a portrait of a man moulded by his environment. Sho Aikawa, who plays policeman Jojima in the DOA 1 and Mizuki in DOA 2 has more interesting roles and is uniformly excellent in both. Certainly DOA 2 has more to say and manages to say it without too many distractions unlike the first one. The director loves contradictions — he shows us the humanity behind the characters but then shoves them into a pile crap in the next scene… literally.
There is no denying that Miike Takashi is doing something different – his films are dizzying, funny, surprising and always divides the audience [“inventive boy genius, new hope for cinema” yells one camp, “perverted goat” yells the other] Well, there is a third camp — who thinks he’s overhyped, not impressed so far but knows he has the goods to come up with something more extraordinary. Perhaps that is Audition but I ain’t seen that one yet.
PS: neither of these are ‘date’ movies [especially for the female half of the population considering the degenerate things that are done to them] Having said that if you did take a date and they loved it, then you’ve found yourself a very special person indeed! Aw…
And festival cameo appearance goes to:
Edison Chen who appears in DOA 2 as a SMS typing gangster called Boo!