Dead or Alive (1999)

I have a great plan for anyone that doesn’t want to gain weight over the holidays. Just watch Dead or Alive while you attempt to eat. There’s a chance you may actually lose weight. A lot of weight, depending on how strong your stomach is.

If I were to describe the plot of this film, it’d be this: Ryuichi (Riki Takeuchi, veteran of tons of Japanese mafia films and also King RIKI in the beyond insane Japanese wrestling promotion HUSTLE) and his triad gang are battling for control of the Shinjuku quarter against the Yakuza, with Detective Jojima (Show Aikawa) playing every side against one another, all while he has to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for his daughter’s surgery and deal with his wife cheating on him.

The tagline for this film, however, lists exactly what this is all about. WARNING: This motion picture contains explicit portrayals of violence; sex; violent sex; sexual violence; clowns and violent scenes of violent excess, which are definitely not suitable for all audiences.

There are literally seven minutes removed for the R rated cut and just discussing what is in those lost minutes would guarantee that this review wouldn’t pass Amazon or IMDB standards.

But man — the first five minutes of this film are completely unhinged. It starts with a band counting off and blasts you into a heavy blast of guitar and a woman diving off a building to her death. Excess upon excess builds, between bathroom dalliances filled with violence and blood, a thirty-foot long line of coke, strippers gyrating, clowns throwing knives at naked people, motorcycles, guns, more strippers and arterial sprays of blood.

There’s also a kiddie pool filled with feces used as a killing device and an ending that literally blows up the entire world. Honestly, you may have to stop watching movies for awhile after this one to detox.

Director Takashi Miike makes little to no sense in any of his films, with none of his films ever having anything in common with one another. They’re hyper-visual blasts of brutality and violence. And trust me — they’re not for everyone. There’s plenty of scenes in this film that will turn the stomach of just about any filmgoer. There’s something here to upset everybody.

We should assume that Alejandro Jodorowsky knows all there is to know about making incomprehensibly bonkers cinema. In a Fortean Times interview, he said, “Takashi Miike, for me, is some kind of genius in some moments, and very terrible in other moments – it’s terrible! But in some moments he is incredible! I don’t admire Miike Takashi completely, but I admire a piece of Takashi Miike.”

There are two sequels with the only constant being Aikawa and Takeuchi in the title roles. All three are up on Shudder and you can watch the first film with and without commentary from Joe Bob Briggs.

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