Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 8th, 2017
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1999 (Dead or Alive), Japan, 2000 (Dead or Alive 2: Birds), Japan, 2002 (Dead or Alive: Final)
Director: Takashi Miike
Writers: Ichiro Ryu (Dead or Alive), Masa Nakamura (Dead or Alive 2: Birds), Hitoshi Ishikawa, Yoshinobu Kamo, Ichiro Ryu (Dead or Alive: Final)
Cast: Riki Takeuchi, Shô Aikawa, Renji Ishibashi, Hitoshi Ozawa, Shingo Tsurumi, Kaoru Sugita (Dead or Alive), Shô Aikawa, Riki Takeuchi, Noriko Aota, Edison Chen, Shin’ya Tsukamoto (Dead or Alive 2: Birds), Shô Aikawa, Maria Chen, Richard Chen, Josie Ho (Dead or Alive: Final)
BluRay released: March 27, 2017 (UK), April 11th, 2017 (USA)
Approximate running times: 105 minutes (Dead or Alive), 97 minutes (Dead or Alive 2: Birds), 89 minutes (Dead or Alive: Final)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Films)
Rating: 15 (UK), R (USA)
Sound: LPCM Stereo Japanese (All Films)
Subtitles: English (All Films)
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A, B
Retail Price: $49.95 / £24.99 (UK)
The Dead or Alive trilogy was directed by Takashi Miike, a prolific filmmaker who has worked in just about genre of film. Some of his most notable films to date include Audition, Ichi the Killer, Fudoh: The New Generation and The Bird People in China.
Dead or Alive: Worlds collide, when a hard-boiled cop and a psychopath criminal face off.
Plot wise Dead or Alive is a fairly routine cops verse yakuza yarn. And yet the end result is unlike anything that had come before it and has been rarely matched since. Things start off at a frenetic montage that heaps on the sex and violence. This opening set up also introduces all of the main players. After the aforementioned opening montage, things slow down considerably as the film shifts it focus more on the characters and their everyday experiences. And while there a few brief bursts of carnage during the film’s middle section. It is not until the film final act that the violence that open this film once again takes center stage, especially during the film’s metaphorical ending.
Visually the film is never short of memorable moments. With some of the stand out sequences being a poignant scene where Ryuuichi (a psychopath criminal) and his little brother who has just come back from America, they mourn their recently deceased mother. Another unforgettable moment includes a scene where a Japanese Yakuza boss named Aoki a drowns Ryuuichi’s girlfriend in a baby pool filled with feces.
There is chaotic flow to this film’s narrative that perfectly captures the mood. And whenever violence erupts on screen this is where this film always excels. Another area in which this production holds up really well is the way in which it establishes who everyone is and what their motivations are. And while there are some cartoonish aspects to this film two main characters Detective Jojima and Ryuuichi. There are also a handful of moments in this film that do a reasonable good job humanizing them.
Performance wise all of the cast deliver and then some. Sure, the majority of the performances walk dangerous close the edge and often verge into over the top territory. But then that is exactly why they are so damn enjoyable. Of course, this film heart and soul are its two leads, Riki Takeuchi (Deadly Outlaw: Rekka) and Shô Aikawa (Zebraman). Another performance of note is Renji Ishibashi (Watcher in the Attic) in the role of Aoki. Ultimately Dead or Alive is a delirious exercise in excess that fans of Takashi Miike’s brand of cinema are sure to thoroughly enjoy, while everyone will shake their head in disbelief at what is unfolding onscreen.
Dead or Alive 2: Birds: To hitmen who were childhood friends try to reconnect with their youth.
Though organized crime plays a role of the story at hand. The tone of this sequel is in direct contrast to its predecessor. The film narrative opens and ends with bursts of violence, while the middle section of the film takes on much lighter tone.
As mentioned before this film is sequel, albeit in name only. With the its main connection to Dead or Alive, is that Dead or Alive 2: Birds also features Riki Takeuchi and Shô Aikawa in the two lead roles. Performance wise they both deliver well rounded performances that shine brightest during the more dramatic moments where their characters try to reconnect with their childhood. Their most memorable moment is a scene where their characters perform a play for orphans.
Visually the film does not miss a beat and though the more violent moments have all the hallmarks that have since become synonymous with Takashi Miike most notorious films. It is ultimately the more dramatic moments where he delivers the greatest impact. Overall Dead or Alive 2: Birds is riveting melodrama that is driven by its main characters.
With Dead or Alive: Final Takashi Miike returns to the Dead or Alive series for a third and in final time. And just its predecessors, this final installment is a standalone film that bears little resemblance to the two films that preceded it. And this time around the narrative is set in futuristic society that draws inspiration from films like Blade Runner and Brazil.
Another area where this film is different from its predecessors is when it comes to its action set pieces. With many of the action set pieces features martial arts. Despite the bleak premise, the overall tone of this film is more tongue and cheek, then its predecessors. And nowhere is this films humor more evident, then when it comes to the portrayal of Dictator Woo, the mayor of this futuristic society.
Once again, the two leads are Riki Takeuchi and Shô Aikawa who performances anchor this most unusual take of the future. Riki Takeuchi portrays a cop who is fiercely loyal to Dictator Woo and Shô Aikawa’s character is a Replicant. Another performance of note is Richard Chen’s delirious performance in the role Dictator Woo.
Visually Takashi Miike’s creates a believe world. And when it comes to the more action oriented moments this film delivers in spades. With the stand out action set pieces being Riki Takeuchi and Shô Aikawa two fight scenes. The most memorable moment is the film’s finale where Takashi Miike takes footage from the previous films with his two leads and sets this montage to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Air from Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068.
The three films included as part of this collection are presented on two 50 GB dual layer BluRay’s and all three films are presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. All three of these films features artificial worlds and these three transfers do a great job retaining their intended look. Dead or Alive and Dead or Alive 2: Birds transfers are from film sources and the end result are transfers that are substantial upgrades, when compared to their previous home video releases. Dead or Alive Final opens with a disclaimer explaining was shot in standard definition and because of this there are no suitable HD masters. Despite these short comings, Arrow Video transfer is easily the best this film has looked on home video to date.
Each film comes with one audio option, a LPCM stereo mix in Japanese and all three films comes with removable English subtitles. Also Dead or Alive: Final also has dialog in Chinese and English. All of the audio mixes sound, clear, clear, balanced and robust when they need too. It should be noted that Dead or Alive: Final has Japanese subtitles that are imbibed in the films original source, when characters speak Chinese or English.
Extras for this release are spread over two discs.
Extras on disc one include, Dead or Alive U.S. trailer (1 minutes 41 seconds), DOA Japanese trailer (1 minutes 19 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), Dead or Alive 2: Birds trailer (1 minute 25 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), Dead or Alive 2: Birds original making of featurette (10 minutes 17 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) and an audio commentary for Dead or Alive with Miike biographer Tom Mes.
Extras on disc two include, Dead or Alive: Final mystery trailer (1 minutes 39 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), Dead or Alive: Final theatrical trailer (1 minute 7 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), Dead or Alive: Final original making of featurette (11 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles) and three interviews – an interview with producer and screenwriter Toshiki Kimura titled Drifting with Miike (43 minutes 43 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), an interview with actor Riki Takeuchi titled Deadly Outlaw Riki (30 minutes 28 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) and an interview with actor Sho Aikawa titled Cop, Killer, Replicant (22 minutes 47 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles).
The two-original making of featurettes have onset footage and comments from the cast and Takashi Miike.
The interview with Toshiki Kimura is a career retrospective interview that focuses on his numerous collaborations with Takashi Miike. Other topics include, his origins as a filmmaker and his cinema influences.
The interview with Riki Takeuchi is also a career retrospective interview. Key topics include, his origins as an actor, V-Cinema and his collaborations with Takashi Miike.
The interview with Sho Aikawa primarily focus on the Dead or Alive trilogy. This extra also features comments from Takashi Miike who discusses why he diverts from what original is in a screenplay, Riki Takeuchi and Shô Aikawa.
Rounding out the extras is a slip cover, reversible cover art and a thirty-page booklet with cast & crew information for all three films, an essay titled Three Extremes: Takashi Miike’s Dead or Alive Trilogy written by Kat Ellinger and information about the transfer. Overall Arrow Video gives the Dead or Alive trilogy its best release to date.
Note: This film is also being released by Arrow Video on DVD.