Monday, October 20, 2008

Film Review: Death Trance

Death Trance, Directed by Yuji Shimomura, gives the viewer a pretty bare-boned plot: Essentially a super-human fighter steals a coffin from a temple that is supposed to allow the one who opens it to have his biggest desire granted. In this mish-mash cross between a kung-fu movie, Mad Max, and Samurai-chambara, 4 Characters fight it out to steal the magic coffin from each other. That's basically the whole plot right there. Who are these four stolid warriors?

1. Sid (or, Totally Pointless Ronin with 80's Hair) This
pointless character is played by Steven Seagal's son Kentaro. The character does nothing to advance the plot (not that there is much of one to begin with), and Kentaro just plain lacks any of the screen presence or bad-ass charisma of his father.

2. Grave (or, Eternally hungry super human number one fighter) Played by Tak
Sakaguchi - Sakaguchi makes up for all of Kentaro Seagal's faults as an actor with charisma and stage presence in spades. Well, as long as he doesn't open his mouth. He owns every scene he's in with a Mifune-like flair, but for some reason, all of his lines fall flat. His action scenes are lightning fast and rock-solid whereas Kentaro's one marginal fight scene is pretty weak in comparison.

3. Yuri (or, Pa
le mysterious death angel lady) More of a plot device than a character, she sort of moves the plot along with the main protagonist:

4. Ryuen (or, Naive Over-His-Head Junior Priest) Tasked by the bishop of his destroyed temple with bringing back the coffin. He's the joe everyman in this crazy story of swordplay, blood, vampires, creepy little kids in kimonos, and kung-fu flying action.

Director Shimomura, who was action director for Ryuhei Kitamura on both "Aragami" and "Versus", obviously brought this experience with him. "Death Trance" is smoother than versus but not as much so as "Aragami", and the action is a combination of both films. I actually watched this movie specifically to see Kentaro Seagal, to see if he has inherited any of his father's screen presence or action skills. He disappoints in both areas. Tak Sakaguchi absolutely steals the show as the super human killing machine. I almost wonder if he actually studied Toshiro Mifune's swagger and bravado - he pulls it off brilliantly. Unfortunately he utterly lacks any power with his lines. Unlike Mifune, his voice definitely does not even come close to matching his swagger in this movie.

The locations and costumes were great, as was the washed out color most of the movie was filmed in, it gives it a dark and stylized look. All in all an OK popcorn movie with lots of katana, gun, and fist action, with some gunkata, capoeira, vampires, a motorcycle, and a bazooka thrown in for good measure. Final verdict:

Three Smilin' Sammys out of five:

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