Document type
1 May 2001
Format viewed

Dead or Alive 2

picture: Dead or Alive 2 (2000)picture: Dead or Alive 2 (2000)

Original title
Dead or Alive 2 - Tobosha
Alternative title
Takashi MIIKE
  • Sho AIKAWA
  • Shinya TSUKAMOTO
  • Kenichi ENDO
  • Tomorowo TAGUCHI
  • Ren OSUGI
  • Teah
Running time
97 mins.

picture: Dead or Alive 2 (2000)

Tom Mes

Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive was an eye-opener of magnificent proportions for many. A slam-bang, mindbending adrenalin rush which went far beyond conventions, with what is probably the ultimate film finale. When this movie was over, it was over.

So here's the sequel. And how does one make a follow-up to the end of the world? Quite simple. One doesn't. Dead or Alive 2 is a completely different story. The only similarities are the director and two lead actors. Straight from the opening scene it's obvious that this is a different film indeed. Instead of cramming several scenes' worth of exposition into a seven-minute hyper speed montage like part 1, DOA 2 instead starts with a one-take sequence shot with a fixed camera, filled with dialogue and lasting several minutes.

A bleached-haired Sho Aikawa plays Mizuki, a hitman in a loud shirt who is hired by an enigmatic magician (played by director Shinya Tsukamoto, with whom Miike made Tsukamoto Shinya Ga Rampo Suru (1999), a making of-documentary on Gemini included on the Japanese DVD release of Tsukamoto's film) to assassinate a yakuza boss with the intent of creating a turf war. The night of the hit, a mysterious competitor appears who shoots Mizuki's target in the head and then disappears as quickly as he came. Mizuki takes credit for the hit, collects the money and makes a run for it. He takes refuge in the area where he grew up, an island far from Tokyo. But the ship that takes him there also carries the mysterious rival hitman (Riki Takeuchi).

When the two meet it in fact turns out they are childhood friends, both born and raised on the island where they have now come to hide out and an old bond of friendship is re-instated. While the two rekindle their memories and meet old acquaintances, back in Tokyo the yakuza is searching for both men and their main lead is the magician.

The understated way of shooting of the opening scene is in fact characteristic of DOA 2 as a whole. Miike brings us less in the way of style and more in the way of performances, giving the actors a lot more room to show off their abilities. Tsukamoto delivers a deliciously (and deliriously) energetic performance, but most of all it's Sho Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi who reveal hidden depths as actors, going far beyond the requirements of the quickly-made direct-to-video action movies they so often appear in. Aikawa in particular shows a naturalism and spontaneity hitherto unseen. And Riki Takeuchi? Well, Riki not only smiles in this movie, he even (in a moment which is absolutely priceless) dresses up as a lion to perform in front of a room full of children. There is the definite sense here that Miike made this film in honour of its two stars as much as anything else. The hilariously brilliant denouement has only one simple message: Sho and Riki will never die!

Dead or Alive 2 is a slower, more gentle and good-natured film than its predecessor, breathing a strong sense of nostalgia. Where part 1 was a film about men unable to escape their fate, DOA 2 is a film about the joys of childhood and a longing for the lost days of youth, while contemplating the choices you made in life that have made you the person you are today. These two hitmen on the run play soccer, sit on the swing and hang out on the beach, while they reminisce about doing those exact same things when they were little boys.

But for all their differences, DOA 2 is still a true follow-up to Dead or Alive. Aside from the numerous visual references to part 1, there is the sense that this story is set in the same universe, where the same rules of logic apply and where the impossible is not quite that.

Being the change-of-pace that it is, DOA 2's biggest hurdle will be the expectancies of its audience. Many people will come to this hoping for another rip-roaring crime saga. They will probably leave disappointed. Those who are willing to judge this film on its own merits however, will find a small treasure. May Miike present them to us for many years to come.


Kino (USA)

picture: DVD cover of 'Dead or Alive 2'

Region 1. English subtitles.

Kino (USA)

picture: DVD cover of 'Dead or Alive'

Dear or Alive Trilogy box set. Region 1. English subtitles.

Tartan (UK)

picture: DVD cover of 'Dead or Alive 2'

Region 0. English subtitles.

City Connection (Hong Kong)

picture: DVD cover of 'Dead or Alive 2'

Region 3. English, Chinese subtitles.

Buy at:

Wild Side (France)

picture: DVD cover of 'Dead or Alive 2'

Region 2. French subtitles.

Buy at:

Toei (Japan)

picture: DVD cover of 'Dead or Alive 2'

Region 2. No subtitles.