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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Dead or Alive (review)

Where’s Quentin? Tarantino has obviously emigrated to Japan and gone out of his head. Or else Takashi Miike has seen Pulp Fiction too many times, and thought it was too sober a drama. Miike’s 1999 film Dead or Alive is pretty much plotless mayhem in the neo-noir streets of Tokyo as black-trenchcoated Chinese crime lords battle Yakuza thugs as well as hapless on-the-edge cops. Detective Jojima (Show Aikawa) has a daughter who needs a serious operation; Chinese don Ryuichi (Riki Takeuchi) has a little brother who can’t deal with Ryu’s criminal lifestyle — bits of seriousness like this don’t mix well with noodles exploding from the belly of a gluttonous crimelord shot in the back and other bits of frequently sadistic and pornographic action humor. The over-the-top finale is hilarious, but it was only then that I realized the film was supposed to be an out-and-out comedy. Maybe it’s a Japanese thing, but I don’t really get it.


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MPAA: not rated

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

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