Dead or Alive Final

dir. Miike

Opens Fri March 21

Clinton Street Theater

Takashi Miike has made an international name for himself. His films are extremely varied, from the horror show Audition, to the sordid, absurd humor of Visitor Q, as well as various action-oriented yakuza films, Fudoh and Dead Or Alive. Miike's fatalistic, all-inclusive approach to making films has led to a diverse repertoire that defies genre. However, the one characteristic for which he has become notorious is his pattern of testing extremes.

The violence and grotesque absurdities in Miike's films have always been remarkably overboard. Guys get thrown alive into giant meat grinders, tits are mutilated, dead people get raped, dads pay to have sex with their teenage daughters, etc. So what is most striking about Dead Or Alive: Final is its surprising lack of fantastic gore. Frankly, it's a little disappointing.

The potential is certainly there, with a plot that involves a futuristic Yokohama, where birth control is mandatory. Those who refuse to take the drug are treated like criminals, with filled to bursting pregnant women kept in prison cells. The fat, gay Dictator Woo and his sidekick, Honda, enforce the drug to control the population and resources. A gang of rebels are attempting to subvert Woo, and, of course, there are replicants running around (yeah, exactly like Blade Runner).

If he really wanted to freak people out, Miike could have had a field day with this plot. But there's only one implied infant killing, one bloody shoot-out, and one replicant squirting robot fluid from between her legs. The rest is standard-level violent martial artistry (mostly done by the machines anyhow), and some gunplay.

As is Miike's preferred style, Final is not made as a logical sequel, so don't be confused when you find that the Dead Or Alive world didn't actually get destroyed at the end of the last one. Illogicality never matters in these indulgent fantasies, and Miike's only reliable pattern seems to be ending each Dead Or Alive flick with a ridiculous climax pulled from thin air. Final is certainly no exception. The big finish here is such a ludicrous ode to irrational masculine fancy that it's utterly hilarious.

One shining aspect of this film is Josie Ho, who plays Jyun, one of the breeding rebels who runs around fighting despite her own pregnancy. Tough, adorable, and not showing a bit, she becomes close to Ryo (Show Aikawa), a goofy, good-natured replicant. His befriending of Jyun and her little brother constitute the most lighthearted scenes of Dead or Alive.

Compared to Miike's earlier work, Dead Or Alive: Final is downright sedate. Maybe he's trying to evolve and defy expectations, but it's just not the same! His insistence in claiming absolute freedom to press boundaries has always been admirable, but that distinctive edginess is withheld here. Bring it back!