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In an unknown place and unknown time, a master Samurai known only by the name of Grave (Tak Sakaguchi) searches for the ultimate battle. Never showing fear for any fight, Grave is the one and only swordsman able to steal the mysterious and legendary coffin from the holy Tougan Temple. In this world without reason, a young girl from the temple grounds follows Grave and the coffin whereever they may go. And so begins the deadly race to re-capture the coffin and its hidden power from Grave for good or evil.
Top Customer Reviews
The film has interesting characters, including a guy with big hair and a gun, a six shooter that shoots nine bullets and there is a shotgun thing with an infinite number of bullets. The coffin is dragged along the ground by chains, although there are wheels as we see in one scene which has a motorcycle. The fighting was anything but martial arts and utilized a metal sound track. The forest had interesting men that were zombie, vampire, spider.
It was an interesting fantasy film, young gamers might like.
Guide: No f-bombs, sex, or nudity.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
On a plot scale it rates about a 3 out of 5, but the action scenes, the tributes to Versus and the great camera angles and zooms dedicated to continually making TAK look great, are enough to call this movie a keeper. It's FUNNY, FAST, and Tak introduces his stunt team "ZERO" (meaning zero casualties) who basically, don't pull their punches when they work. So talk about a huge touch of realism to any action movie, when the star and his stunt people are really hitting each other! It's just a really FUN and entertaining movie. And with the way they end it, you are left wanting MORE!
Tak Sakaguchi is the best bad actor in Japan, and you will probably only like him if A.) You watch anime or read manga. or B.) You like hot guys. I am an A-type Sakaguchi lover. He has a very animated look to him and is surprisingly a good action director, with his "Zero Team."
The other reviewers I'm sure have summed up the weird sub-par story, so I'll skip directly to the soundtrack and DVD features. The soundtrack is performed by the amazing Japanese Rock/Metal band "Dir en grey." If the well-choreographed action scenes don't rock your socks off, then the soundtrack will. As for the DVD, the menu music is great, and there is a great interview with Tak Sakaguchi who talks about his experiences. It is very entertaining and some of the best documentary material I've seen recently.
Only watch this film, if you like Tak, Dir en grey, and taking a chance on a movie. Whether this movie is Great or Horrible (yet hilarious) is up to you. There are only two bad actors in the film, and one of them has a very small part. The other one has a co-starring role, and is armed with a bad haircut and some sort of missle launcher.
No matter who you are, this movie definately leaves you thirsting for a sequel, just like Versus did.
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