Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Tak Sakaguchi, Honoka Asada, Yôko Fujita, Ben Hiura, Chuck Johnson
Director: Yuji Shimomura
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Science Fiction & Fantasy
In an unknown place and unknown time, a lone Samurai known only as Grave (Tak Sakaguchi) thirsts for the ultimate battle. Grave has stolen a mysterious coffin from the holy Tougan Temple ? a coffin said to contain a great ... more »
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This divisive film drips style!
A. Reid | NC, USA | 02/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Even in my house, this film gets mixed reviews. My husband found it mediocre. He walked away with a puzzled sense of incompletion, while I'm left wanting to chew over metaphor, color, design. I loved it.
Maybe it has to do with what you're looking for. Great acting? Not really. Tak Sakaguchi is gorgeous, but seems fairly stiff. He doesn't stray far here from his role in _Versus_ (which I also loved.) Great plot? Not if what you're looking for is a traditional, linear story. Familiarity with Japanese mysticism could help; the writers presume a certain knowledge base that many western viewers will lack. But more than that, they allow viewers to interpret elements on their own...or not. My husband saw meaningless distraction in the emphasis on hunger; I saw metaphor, pointing to an insatiable appetite of a different kind. The cyclical plot made sense to me in the context of reincarnation/rebirth.
I think the plot as given is a template; you can use the little details dropped through the story to build something grander for yourself...but you don't have to, because arguably the story isn't the point. This film is much about style over substance. It's all sensation--sounds, visuals, movement. Sometimes it's heavy-handed and clumsy, yes, but on balance it does an excellent job. It's like an early Mark Romanek video, "Closer" with martial arts. Set design, color and costume are at least as important as dialogue. Composition is striking, but organic. Why are these women dressed like that? Who cares? In the universe of _Death Trance_, they belong!
A lot of different influences seem to have gone into this production. The director and star share a deep love of traditional Japanese set pieces, the "jidaigeki" epitomized to Western audiences in the work of Akira Kurosawa. (Trivia: George Lucas cobbled the word "jedi" out of the name of this genre). In the "making of" documentary on the disc, both discuss their desire to update the form with the inclusion of modern (but highly stylized) weaponry. George Miller's _Mad Max_ seems to have played some part in informing the aesthetic of the film, as far as some of the costuming at least. Even the "spaghetti western" makes an appearance, with Grave a post-apocalyptic Django hauling his coffin of death behind him.
I found the movie tremendous fun. For the most part bloodlessly violent (ENDLESSLY violent), it was an adrenaline release with just enough suggestion of more to set fire to my imagination. I recognize it won't suit all tastes (didn't suit the husband's), but I will certainly be recommending it to my friends. And watching it with them, when I can.
10 feet tall and eats babies? No, Tak's not that scary.
K.M. Viglione | PA USA | 07/03/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Death Trance, starring Tak Sakaguchi in the lead role of Grave, a master samurai who has stolen the coffin that keeps the Goddess of Destruction imprisoned. His goal is to release her in order to fight the ultimate battle. Such is the synopsis on the back of the box, and that's pretty much all there is to the movie.
Like Versus, Death Trance doesn't rely on an in-depth script or complicated plot to progress what story it has. Mostly, Death Trance is a fighting movie. Everyone is fighting at some point, and everyone wants to get their hands on Grave's stolen coffin. There's Sid, played by Kentaro Segeal (sp?), a monk from the Temple named Ryuen, and a woman who knows the true story about the coffin. Following the coffin regardless of who has it is a little girl from the temple.
There seem to be attempts at making the plot interesting, but the story's synopsis on the box is pretty much it's own spoiler. Other minor characters talk about rumors about grave, saying that he's a giant man who plans to eat the little girl later. Other rumors are that the opened coffin can grant any wish you desire. Obviously these aren't true, and it doesn't make much sense that these keep being repeated.
Grave is well-played by Tak Sakaguchi, whose acting skills have certainly improved since his days on Versus. This is also his first lead role since Versus and Battlefield Baseball. An interview with Tak, which is one of the two major extra features on this disk, reveals how he tried to protray the character and what he thought of him. There's also a "making of" feature which is actually pretty short and half of which are just repeated of the Death Trance trailers and some of Tak's interview.
As said, there's not much of a story or plot, but if you're into martial arts action and enjoyed Versus, you'll like Death Trance. Fights with swords, staves, guns and even a bazooka can be seen. Despite having the air of a period piece, there's lots of modern action and items. (Grave's special weapon prior to recieving a sword is a long rifle that he keeps in a sword sheath.) There are other supernatural aspects as well. Some of the odd opponents that Grave faces are a group of vampires that are almost like spiders in that they built their own giant web in the forest.
Sid's motivation for the coffin is actually surprising once it's revealed. He's a rather dynamic character, and it's a shame he's not in action for very long. Ryuen is rather flat, mostly still overwhelmed with the task assigned to him and really needs to calm down. The female samurai seems to know a great deal but never lets on much until the end. The role that the little girl plays is hard to figure out, and once the Goddess is released from the coffin, she vanishes.
In conclusion, if you liked Versus, you'll probably also like Death Trance. This movie is actually a little more surreal than Versus, and that is really what sets them apart."
Tak's the man!
S. Espinoza | Staten Island, New York USA | 08/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those who have seen Ryuhei Kitamura's Versus and have been waiting quite patiently for the sequel, Death Trance will definitely fit the bill. Tak Sakaguchi from Versus fame plays the main character and action director in this action-packed film.
In a indeterminate time or place, Grave (Tak Sakaguchi) is a man with no past or future who's only goal is to find the ultimate fight. He steals a coffin from a holy temple said to contain the goddess of destruction. If she's released she will, that's right, destroy the whole world. Grave steals the coffin and is pursued by a monk (Takamasa Suga) carrying the only weapon that could destroy the goddess. This sword can only be unsheathed by "the chosen one."
Grave is pursued by various people who want the coffin because they all believe that it will grant your wishes. A lot of fighting ensues and really interesting characters appear. It's fast-paced so you'll totally enjoy every minute of the film without feeling it is dragging.
Tak Sakaguchi (Grave) plays this type of character only too well. He's not evil, he just likes to fight. Nothing wrong with that. The little girl that follows the coffin no matter who steals it is so cute with an interesting purpose of her own.
This movie is fun with a lot of cool fight scenes and none of the characters take themselves seriously making it funny too. I highly recommend it to all."
I love it so much ;_;
Yumeni | Plymouth, MN United States | 07/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's kind of like Versus, except with more plot, less gore, and Tak looks a lot prettier (if that were possible). It is genuinely funny and very fast paced, so that you don't even notice 90 minutes pass by. The action is awesome, as it should be since Tak was the action director. I can't stop watching it over and over, and already infected my friends with it. The only possible problem is the ending, which is very frustrating and offers no resolution, so be prepared."