Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 23rd, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, October 7th, 1978
Director: Junya Sato
Writer: Koji Takada
Cast: Ken Takakura, Ryoko Nakano, Hiroko Yakushimaru, Rentaro Mikuni, Isao Natsuyagi
DVD released: April 26th, 2005
Approximate running time: 143 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese
DVD Release: Adness/Ventura
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.99
Synopsis: Ambassador Hoover and his family are being held hostage by terrorists that threaten to take kill the hostages if their demands are not met. The government wanting to avoid a scandal calls is secret military organization known as special operations forces to take care of the terrorists. Years later Ajisawa (Ken Takakura) is a former member of Japan’s special operations forces who was dishonorably discharged. Yoriko Nagai (Hiroko Yakushimaru) is the lone survivor from her village after a madman killed everyone. Tomoko Ochi (Ryoko Nakano) is a reporter for the local newspaper who has lost several family members due tragic accidents. What do these three individuals have in common and will these discover the truth they seek?
The main theme that runs through out Never Give Up is Ajisawa’s quest for redemption. He is a man who has done many questionable things in his past that have come back full circle to haunt him. His taking care of the young girl Yoriko has more to do with to with the guilt he feels and not genuine kindness that compels him too do good things.
Yoriko due to a past trauma has the ability to see events that are about to happen in the near future. This film tackles the fortune telling angle with a realism that is lacking in most Hollywood films that deal with individuals who can for see the future. The director cleverly approaches her gift as though it may be nothing more then her own imagination and something she is projecting onto those who she has ill feelings towards. The two have grown to trust each other as they have forged a father and daughter like bound that keeps them going even when their fate seems inescapable.
The story is well written and the characters are fleshed out just enough to give us a glimpse at their inner workings. The acting is one of the films strongest assets and the cast is filled with many great performances most notably Ken Takakura and Hiroko Yakushimaru who some might recognize as Princess Shizuhime from Legend of the Eight Samurai. The violence in this film is rarely glamorized in its looks as the director for the most part has opted for a more realistic looking violence that is more effect in getting its point across. Several aspects of the story have been used in many films before like a stranger who comes to town and is meets by a corrupt boss who runs the place. The direction is solid as director Junya Sato manages to perfectly balance action with drama. Overall Never Give Up is an epic tale about redemption and betrayal that moves at a brisk pace.
Adness presents Never Give Up in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The colors and flesh tones look natural and healthy. Black levels are strong; still some of the darker and night time scenes look soft at times. Detail remains sharp through out and grain is kept to a minimum. There are no problems with edge enhancement or compression.
This DVD comes with only one audio option the films original Japanese language track which is presented here in a Dolby Digital stereo. There is some dialog in the film that is in English, still most of the film is in Japanese. Dialog comes through cleanly and action which there is plenty of sounds robust. There are no problems with hiss or distortion as the audio track is virtually flawless. English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow read and follow.
Extras include the films original trailer as well as trailers for Resurrection of Golden Wolf, Shadow of The Wraith, Shikoku, Inugami and Isola. All these titles are currently available or are soon to be released by Adness. Rounding out the extras in liner notes written by the ever so insightful Patrick Macias and the liner notes are included not in a separate insert. They have been printed on the inside of the DVD’s cover sleeve. I actually prefer these clear cases with liner notes on the reverse side and the loss of a booklet doesn’t bother me since the prices on releases that don’t have booklets tend to retail for less.
Adness once again delivers a first rate audio/video presentation of the film. Unfortunately like many of their releases it lacks extra material that gives more incite into the film and the people who worked on it. Never Give Up is a gripping drama that is filled with exceptional performances and enough plot twists to keep you guessing tell the very end, recommended.