If there was ever a movie by which to gauge director Takashi Miike's genius by, it would be Dead or Alive. DOA is a yakuza action, however, much like the old proverb "Never judge a book by its cover", the film contains a great deal of sub plots and themes than the obvious crime genre it carries.
The first ten minutes of DOA contain a mind boggling series of events that include a coked up chick being thrown from a rooftop, a Chinese gangster being shot to shit during meal time, a great cop chase and a strip tease/ carnival show. When the dust settles in your mind after trying to piece together the sequences that flashed before your eyes, you get introduced to Ryuichi (Takeuchi) and Jojima (Aikawa), a Chinese born gangster and cop, respectfully.
Ryuichi is hellbent on muscling in on an extremely large drug deal being shipped from China and goes to great lengths to eliminate all that stand in his path, including Jojima. As the minutes pass in DOA, several bodies drop, including key figures like Jojima's wife and daughter, Ryuichi's little brother and girlfriend, and many other top Yakuza bosses.
Amidst the bloodshed and burlesque shows lies a theme that is prominent in Ryuichi and Jojima's character development. Both begin to pursue their individual goals while taking the most important people in their life for granted. In true Miike style, the main characters are subjected to intense inner turmoil as they are ached faced with their personal dilemnas.
Jojima is a hard edged cop that has a wife and daughter, who is dying of some serious growth in her stomach. Jojima begins to shy away from his family in order to take down Ryuichi and the massive drug deal coming from China. The further Jojima immerses himself in the case, the more his personal life suffers. His family, puzzled by his dedication to taking down Ryuichi slowly dies an emotional death. Jojima's partner, too, suffers an untimely death at the hands of Ryuichi's henchmen during a massive gun fight towards the end.
During that same gun fight, Ryuichi's little brother, recently returned from America, is gunned down by Jojima's partner, Ryuichi swears to take down Jojima and begins by rigging his car with a bomb. Unfortunately, Ryuichi lands the mark of Jojima's wife and daughter, as they borrow his car to send the daughter in for life saving surgery. Pained by the tragic deaths of their loved ones, Ryuichi and Jojima enter a showdown that is capped by an intense and ultra violent gun fight at the end of the movie.
Like an expert seamstress, Miike fabricates a superb storyline that takes the viewer on an emotional ride as the sub plots develop. While filling in lulls of the film with gratuitous violence and nudity (hooray) Miike attempts to distract the viewer in the same way that the main characters Ryuichi and Jojima are distracted by their own goals. Only in a stunning turn of events do both the viewer and main characters walk on the same path of regret as Ryuichi and Jojima have made the ultimate scarifices for their careers.
As far as extras go, the disc is a wee bit thin, offering up a very interesting interview with Miike regarding character and story development, and a slew of Miike's trailers.
Irrespective of the lack of extras, DOA is a superb movie and must be held as one of Miike's best, ever!