Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Dead Or Alive 2

I can think of few other directors who would go so far out of their way to make as contrary a sequel as Dead Or Alive 2. It's a mark of Miike's rebelliousness and his distaste for the diminishing creative returns of the franchise model that the second film in the DOA trilogy bears almost no resemblance to the original. It's also a mark of his continual need to push the film-making envelope, defying audience expectation in the process.

DOA 2 stars the same two leads as DOA, Sho Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi, but they don't reprise their roles from that film (how could they?!). Instead, they play a pair of hit men, working independtly of one another, who end up targeting the same mark. Sawada beats Okamoto to the kill, but Okamoto decides to take his clients' money anyway and run. They both flee to the same small island, where it transpires they grew up together; childhood friends. The second act of the movie sees a reawakening of their friendship and leads to the formation of a plan - to work together and put their ill-gotten gains to good use, reinvesting hit money in foreign aid. Nothing is ever quite so black and white with Miike though - redemption for his characters comes at a heavy cost.

Although it doesn't quite deliver the compulsive viewing of its predecessor, DOA 2 is nevertheless an intriguing movie. By turns humourous, contemplative and surprisingly poignant, it's full of unexpected scenes, like the childrens' play Sawada and Okamoto decide to stage. The intrusion of adult themes into the play echo what is arguably the main theme of DOA 2 - loss of innocence, or rather, the gradual dissolution of childhood; the indefinable transition from what we were into what we become. This is framed throughout by the question "where are you?"; addressed, perhaps, to the viewer's inner child. In many ways, the film is reminiscent of Kitano Takeshi's style; extreme violence counterpointing a quiet reflection on the human condition; on friendship, memory and shared experience.

犯罪者 2
Dir. Takashi Miike, 2000