MIXES BRAVE NEW WORLD, BLADE RUNNER & THE MATRIX WITH HONG KONG STYLE
DEAD OR ALIVE: FINAL
Dec 7, 2003
The last film in Miike’s Dead or Alive trilogy brings the series around full circle. For their final incarnation Sho Aikawa’s and Riki Takeuchi’s characters are each other’s nemeses once again, only this time they have switched roles of outlaw and lawman; cyborg and Blade Runner, respectively. The film takes place in Yokohama 2346. Japan has become extremely overcrowded, polluted, and chaotic. It now resembles less the Japan we are familiar with, and more the port city of Hong Kong. To curb this overpopulation and hopefully bring some order to the chaos, Homosexual Dictator Woo (Richard Chen) has mandated that everyone take a birth control drug. Natural procreation is expressly forbidden. Under the belief that true love could only previously exist between homosexuals, as the act of perpetuating your seed does not factor in, he hopes to create a society where both sexes are finally equal, and animal pair-bonding can subsist on love alone, regardless of sexual baggage.
But there are those who aren’t exactly down with Woo’s Utopia of sexual taxation without representation. These folks live on the fringes of Yokohama in a sort of communal bungalow. Led by hot tempered Jun (Josie Ho) and her Zen like mate, Fon (Terrence Yin) these rebels are out to “stick it to the man,” and make the world an accepting place, once again, for non-safe sex.
Enter Ryô (Sho Aikawa), a replicant with bleached hair and a Universal Studios/Snoopy T-Shirt, on the run from glossy trenchcoat fashion victim with Rin Taro anime hair, Officer Honda (Riki Takeuchi). In return for saving a young boy from harm, Ryô is invited to join the natural sex rebellion. Honda’s inability to track down the replicant, and the persistence of the rebels irks his boss, Dictator Woo. With tensions running high, and biological clocks ticking, the scene is set for an explosive sci-fi action epic.
The film mixes elements of Brave New World, Blade Runner, The Matrix, and any number of other sci-fi films, all encapsulated in a Hong Kong style action package. It definitely has some good thought behind it, analyzing the traditional Sci-Fi questions regarding whether or not a machine can love, the dangers of any so-called “utopian society,” and hope for the possibility of balance in gender, and racial classes in the future. Unfortunately these ideals and questions are glossed over, and somewhat subverted by the introduction of Hong Kong action complete with the lapses in logic so prevalent in said action genre. But Miike knows what he’s doing. In the hands of a lesser director, given the fact the script has not one, but three writers, the film could have turned out to be an absolute turd.
As with Miike’s own City of Lost Souls (aka. The Hazard City) the multiple cultures all speak their native languages, regardless of what language is being spoken to them. As Kris has said, it makes a wonderfully surreal atmosphere, that s only all the more plausible for the fact that with overcrowding comes the need to learn more than one form of oral communication. While the shortest of the three films, it is also the tamest. The film moves on at a steady clip, and is over before you know it. The cinematography is above par, though not as stunning as the other films, with a heavy green filter outdoing that of the Matrix. The soundtrack is futuristic, yet nothing as engaging as the main themes for the previous two films. And, as with Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha, the ending is something that one must see in order to believe.
Overall the film makes a satisfying final entry, much better than any straight to video titles you would find in the US, but is definitely my least favourite in the series. I’d have to say it’s the only one in the series I can’t truly get excited about. But complaining about a Takashi Miike film is like making a stink because you only got 10 pounds of candy on Halloween, rather than 15. Check it out, but only after you’ve seen the other two.