( 2005 / Japan )
Review by Paul Cooke Director: Yuji Shimomura Starring: Tak Sakaguchi , Yko Fujita , Kentaro Seagal , Takamasa Suga & Yuki Takeuchi Source : Tokyo Shock / NTSC Region One DVD / Wide Screen Ratio 1:78:1 / Anamorphic Presentation / Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound / Original Japanese Language / English Language Dubbed / English Language Subbed / Making Of Film / Interview With Tak Sakaguchi / Trailers
‘‘Yea , that’s gonna leave a scar’’
Wildly infused with a Japanese Rock score that tears into your eardrums like shards of solid sound , fired out by a plectrum strummed by the God of Lightening , ‘Death Trance’ is guaranteed to eviscerate the demons of dull from your viewing conventionality instantly. This is live Action Anime come to life , fantastical in its most outlandish comic book film form !.
An ancient temple in an uncharted realm is host to a chain bound coffin. Within its multi tempered restraint it is said to hold the goddess of destruction. A malevolent being who’s power is as incredible to witness as her beauty is to behold. Monks watch over the casket , willing to give up their very lives to ensure that it does not fall into the hands of any who would seek to benefit from its content. It is said that whomever opens the coffin will be granted their wishes of desire. The truth is far less romantic as once freed from her shackled confinement the goddess is destined to wreak absolute destruction across the globe. Heaven itself will not stop her wrath as her earthly restraint shall be no more !.
Mantra mumbling monks and a body box weighed down by Mr. T’s neck wardrobe isn’t about to stop the star of the show Tak Sakaguchi. He plays the role of Grave with a self assured swagger that oozes out of the frame as if this were his regular day time life role. A self styled samurai with a steel sword that later doubles as a unique double barrelled gun. He runs through opponents with fists flying and sword flailing , to suddenly turn about and race back through to finish what he missed on the initial charge. Tap him on the shoulder in a bar and he’s likely to snap your finger off and shove it up your nostril. The fight sequence are fast and furious as staged by Sakaguchi himself in the role of Action choreographer.
The plentiful yet meagre monks are of course no match for the far superiorly honed skills of Grave and the Holy Grail coffin is soon his. This incongruously emergent anti hero now treads a dangerous path , his precious prize trawled behind him in reminiscent homage to Franco Nero’s character ‘Django’ (1966). Scavengers and putrid pillagers alike seek to take the coffin away from Grave along the passage of his pilgrimage to self fulfilment. The clear ‘Lone Wolf And Cub’ reference is affirmed by the curious young female waif travelling with him. An orphaned child or an angelic emissary aligned with the mystical coffin ?. Grave’s relationship with the young girl remains unclear but their journey is a shared one till the end.
The movie is wonderfully littered with all manner of grotesque , geeky and sartorially pervasive partisans , all enveloped in the passion of claiming their wishes by opening the Aladdin coffin. A monk assigned to ensuring that the coffin remains sealed is sent out after Grave , and with him he carries a sacredly sealed sword that can only be opened by the ‘Chosen One’. A blade forged from the heavens that is said to be able to bring the goddess to bear if wielded by a true warrior of virtue.
One inspired supporting role is agreeably played by Kentaro Seagal , son of American Action movie maverick Steven Seagal. He plays the role of Sid with a vicious post punk quaffed hairstyle and a talent for guns that has him shooting through the opposition , as he himself puts the vaunted casket under siege. With a wardrobe that Adam Ant would be proud of he doesn’t wait for Grave to stand and deliver , no sir , this dandy Asian highwayman wanders away with it when his adversary is otherwise engaged with yet another incursion. Now ensconced deep within the forest , however , an altogether consummate challenger for the prize appears in the form of a highly skilled female warrior. With the strength of several men and the lithe qualities of a dream date this whirlwind force is more than a match for both Grave and Sid. The watchful monk now has someone else to be mindful of , as well as the ever enveloping Forbidden Forest !.
With all the main players centre stage their single minded obsession to possess the coffin develops into a greater understanding of what the artefact actually is , but all too late as the inevitable comes to be in the final revelation and rebirth. A cataclysmic collision of good versus evil , where even the heavens above feel the onslaught of centuries of pent up wrath unleashed. A grand stand showpiece finale that brings the house down.
The movie is a free spirited crowd pleasing blast from start to finish. Not since Avi Nesher directed his (1982) interpretation of ‘She’ has a film thrown up such a myriad of mismatched nonsense that actually gels into one glutinous globule of gleeful gratification. The scene in the Forbidden Forest where Grave and his unrequited band of coffin watchers stray into a cacophony of spider webbed mazes is unexpectedly brilliant. Human form spiders with overtones of vampirism capture their prey in their entwined kingdom , to then suck the life giving blood from their victims. Sid is one such hapless recipient of the arachnids of Dracula and ends up looking like a mummified version of Boris Karloff having nicked himself repeatedly whilst open blade shaving !. Grave has to acclimatise to the surroundings in order to survive himself , when all of a sudden up rise an army of strangely black garbed Zombies to attack him. As if the eerie countenance of human faced trees is not bizarre enough this freaky forest throws up a relentless brigade of the un-dead against the potential ‘Chosen One’. Tak’s the man though , heck he survived ‘Versus’ and is prepping for the sequel too.
Viewed very much with brain out of gear , and storyline expectations recessed to the back of the mind until you fancy a real cerebral challenge , ‘Death Trance’ is a wild ride with the brakes off. Immensely entertaining in that selfishly gratifying still a youth at heart way , wryly spiced up for an ‘R’ Rated rendezvous.
Film : 4/5 Groovy Grave’s Picture : 4.5/5 Groovy Grave’s Sound : 4.5/5 Groovy Grave’s Extras : 3/5 Groovy Grave’s Overall : 4/5 Groovy Grave’s
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