Dead Or Alive 2: Birds

cast: Sho Aikawa, Riki Takeuchi, Noriko Atoa, Edison Chen, and Kenichi Endo

director: Miike Takashi

95 minutes (18) 2000
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Tartan Asia Extreme DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Steven Hampton

A sequel in name only, Dead Or Alive 2 has the same director and stars but tells an entirely different story about all-new characters. Two hitmen, Otamoko (the hyperactive Sho Aikawa, with blond hair) and the enigmatic Sawada (beefy Riki Takeuchi), are caught up in a gang war between ruthless Japanese yakuza and vicious Chinese triads. Fleeing the city to hide out on an island – where they grew up at a local orphanage – the old friends enjoy a happy reunion, but do not seem very surprised to find they have both chosen to work as professional killers. After some soul-searching, they finally make a pact to do something ‘constructive’ with the rest of their lives by assassinating crooks to raise money for charity…
Eerily reminiscent of Beat Takashi’s laconic but poignant comedy dramas like Sonatine (1993), and Hana-bi (1997), this is a slow-paced and thought-provoking film about the nature of evil and wickedness. Although there’s also a great deal of bloodshed, with several members of the Asian gangster fraternity targeted by our antiheroes for a variety of particularly messy deaths, Dead Or Alive 2 is not really a horrific movie. Its gallows humour is more whimsical than cruel, and the heroic status awarded to Otamoko and Sawada, before the necessarily downbeat and wholly predictable ending, means they are both transformed – figuratively and literally – into iconic angels of death.
What makes Miike Takashi’s borderline fantasy action picture so worthwhile is the occasional moments of irreverent humour, its carnage and mayhem leavened by amusing moments of cartoonish invention (as when Otamoko reaches over his shoulder and pulls a concrete block from thin air to strike down an attacker). The director seems to revel in these scenes of unexpected novelty, and it’s a tribute to his skill as a filmmaker that they work so well and so often, whatever the context of their appearance in the film. However, despite a couple of viewings, I have to say that Dead Or Alive 2 remains vaguely unsatisfying and is inferior to its earlier title-mate. Dead Or Alive had considerably more raw energy, its action sequences were better orchestrated, and its genuine shocks and narrative twists could not be anticipated. This movie only succeeds its predecessor if you don’t expect to be so greatly impressed with the dynamic fantasy aspects.
Although the film is reportedly uncut, the DVD version reviewed here has at least two shots (of a monstrous penis) obscured with blurry pixilation. Disc extras: star and director filmographies, film notes by Sloan Freer, trailers for other films by this director.