Takashi Miike is probably Japan's most prolific director — to date he has made around 50 pictures, for TV, video and the big screen, and all since 1991. His best known film in the West is the brilliant Audition, and if this cops vs Yakuza thriller isn't quite so impressive, it remains a bold, often disturbing affair.
The opening ten minutes are astonishing, as Miike's rapid-fire, pile-driving editing delivers an unnerving montage to a screaming metal soundtrack. Two men fuck in a toilet, strippers gyrate, a woman plunges from a building, throats are sliced open, immense lines of cocaine are snorted, a nightclub is laid to waste in a blazing gun battle.
The film quickly settles down though, and it does get a little less interesting. The plot sees Tokyo cop Jojima (Sho Aikawa) on the trail of a Chinese gangster (Riki Takeuchi), who is attempting to muscle in on the local Yakuza. Jojima is also desperate for the $200,000 needed to pay for an unspecified, life-saving operation for his teenage daughter, and these concerns inevitably collide in a bloody and tragic manner.
If this sounds somewhat generic, it is, and at times gets a little ponderous. But Miike is a master at delivering well-timed shocks that force you to pay attention; a hooker drowning in a pool of her own faeces, a man frying his hand in batter, and one scene on the 'set' of an animal porn flick are among the choice moments that'll disgust as many as they delight (although nothing tops the climax of Audition for sheer jaw-dropping horror). Miike is also a great stylist — Dead or Alive is bathed in primary colours, and his depiction of Tokyo street life is extremely vivid. And just when it seems that it's all going to end quite traditionally, he delivers a truly bonkers closing sequence that I promise you'll never have seen the likes of before.
Japan’s most controversial director, notorious for his dauntingly prolific output and willingness to push the boundaries of taste. Miike started working as an assistant director in the late 80s, before moving into making straight-to-video thrillers in 1991. He made his feature debut in 1995 with the violent cop thriller Shinjuku Triad Society, and since then has averaged around seven films year.