The Curator of Schlock #354 by Jeff Shuster

Dead or Alive

Not be confused with DOA: Dead or Alive

So I make it to the Canadian border crossing and the guys in the snow fatigues start asking me all kinds of questions. Have I been vaccinated? No. There’s a vaccine for the virus? I haven’t really been keeping up with the news. Do I have a passport? Nope. I guess you need those when you’re traveling. Is that my kangaroo? No! Edwige is no one’s property. She’s my traveling companion. They made me turn around, but I’ll find another way in. Those poor people in Saskatchewan need me!

This week’s Arrow Home Video release is 1999’s Dead or Alive from director Takashi Miike. This brutal movie makes Miike’s own Black Society trilogy look tame. The movie begins with chaos reigning on the streets of Shinjuku. A naked prostitute clutching a bag of blow falls to her death from a high rise. A yakuza member with blond hair and a blue suit rips the blow out of her dead hands. While he’s employing the services of a male prostitute in a dingy bathroom, his throat gets slit by the hand of a rival gangster, blood spraying all over the face of the male prostitute.

Things settle down a little bit after that as we’re introduced to Detective Jojima (Show Aikawa). He and his family are going through a rough time as his daughter needs expensive surgery that the family can’t afford. She’ll die without the surgery, so he makes a deal with a yakuza boss named Aoki (Renji Ishibashi). This Aoki fellow is a bad man that likes to pick up women from hostess clubs and then drown them in inflatable pools filled with their own feces and urine.

Seriously, I hate this guy.

Aoki makes Detective Jojima to hunt down some petty crooks that robbed one of his operations in broad daylight. They are not to be arrested, but turned over the Yakuza so they can be dealt with as the Yakuza deals with people who’ve ripped them off in broad daylight. The ones that stole from them are a small gang of fearless criminals led by a black trench coat wearing malcontent named Ryūichi (Riki Takeuchi). He’s not a nice man. In fact, Ryūichi has the eyes of a cold blooded killer.

Ryūichi and his gang commit a brutal hit on the club belonging to Aoki’s yakuza outfit, wasting almost every member including those in higher leadership positions. They even kill Detective Jojima’s partner who went in trying to arrest them. Jojima shows up to the club well after Aoki and his gang have left the premises. Aoki is the one survivor of the massacre and he forgives the debt Jojima owes him as he is now the boss. Jojima thanks Aoki by shooting him dead.

Detective Jojima turns his sights to Ryūichi’s gang. He intercepts some heroine they’re trying to smuggle into the country. Ryūichi retaliates by rigging Detective Jojima’s car to explode. Too bad Jojima’s wife and daughter were the ones in the car when it it exploded. And just before his daughter was supposed to get that life-saving surgery, too. This leads us to a violent last showdown between Detective Jojima and Ryūichi’s gang. Seriously, this finale is worth the buildup toward it. Check it out!

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444, and episode 450) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.