Dead Or Alive: Final
When a climactic mano-a-mano ends with the obliteration of the planet, what can be done for an encore? For director Takashi Miike, the prolific splatter-meister behind Audition and The Happiness Of The Katakuris, the solution is to keep the two main characters, pretend nothing ever happened, and slap together a silly, in-name-only trilogy. Perhaps the connective tissue lies in the second film, which has yet to be released in the U.S., but outside of the Western-style standoffs between two seemingly invincible antiheroes, there's little in the dire Dead Or Alive: Final to suggest any relation to the blissfully hyper-violent original. "Where," the director's fans might incredulously ask, "are the hookers drowning in kiddie pools filled with their own excrement? Or what about something to top the boiling-hot oil that douses a naked man suspended by hooks from the ceiling? Is Miike getting softer with age?" In Dead Or Alive: Final, Miike trades his grimly comic, sex-and-blood insignia for a self-consciously wacky conflation of Hong Kong action cinema and Japanese anime, with a little cheap science fiction tossed in for good measure. Set in Yokohama in the year 2346 (which looks a lot like the present, only with lax trash service and a few chintzy process shots), the film plucks equal parts from Blade Runner and A Handmaid's Tale to form its ersatz vision of the future. In a city cohabited by humans and battle replicants, fascist mayor Richard Chen presides over an oppressive society that requires everyone to take a special birth-control pill to contain the land, resources, and population. Meanwhile, a small pocket of guerrilla fighters organizes around the mysterious Sho Aikawa, a brooding android who has the ability to sprint at warp speed and nab midair bullets like loping softballs. Looking like a cyberpunk Wayne Newton, Riki Takeuchi plays Chen's reluctant enforcer and Aikawa's arch-nemesis, a straight-arrow cop who springs into action when the rebels kidnap his young son. Miike is still making movies faster than the prints can dry, and his devil-may-care flourishes lead to a few clever surprises. But more often, his recklessness yields muddled action sequences and hammock-like lulls in the narrative. No one shocks with more pleasure than Miikeor, in Audition's case, shocks with more psychological potencybut DOA: Final finds him trying on genre hats that don't fit his oversized, exploding head. The only truly shocking thing in the film is its unforgivable take on the homosexual-killer archetype, with the evil Chen lusting after a shirtless saxophonist while plotting to phase out the straight world by forbidding procreation. But in Miike's world, quantity makes up for occasional lapses in quality, and anyone who dislikes this film can take comfort in the fact that five others are waiting in the annual pipeline.