DVDs: Part 3

Gift guide

DVDs: Part 3

Dead or Alive: Trilogy

Kino International, $49.95

United neither in tone nor plot, but instead in personality and audacity, the Dead or Alive trilogy is a celebration of V-Cinema, the direct to video action-genre where Takashi Miike cut his teeth (and several unfortunates' jugulars). Casting V heavyweights Riki Takeuchi and Sho Aikawa as yakuza and cop might have been crushingly conventional in less talented hands, yet the first film is the most subversive, keeping in character yet slowly ratcheting up the insanity and bodily fluids until devolving into ultraviolent magical realism by film's end. The inexorable force binding Takeuchi and Aikawa powers Dead or Alive 2, where, in a sunnier alternate reality, the two are reunited not as enemies but long-lost childhood friends turned do-gooding contract killers. Miike employs text, childhood footage, and gobs of goofy humor to ruminate on friendship and abandonment, before the two literally earn their wings. A multicultural melange of subtitles and dialects, "Final" finds the pair in a dystopian future, again on opposite sides of the law, Aikawa an amicable replicant and Takeuchi the conflicted cop. Before their final battle leaves them closer than ever, a trilogy montage suggests, as does the series' stream of allusions and in-jokes, that, like Jack Torrence and Overlook Hotel, the two have always been together.

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