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3.6 out of 5 stars
Death Trance
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 6, 2007
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
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.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2006
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
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.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2006
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
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.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2006
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
For those of us who LOVED "VERSUS" and have been waiting for TAK to star in the sequel... "Death Trance" will definitely suffice in the meantime. The Director of "Death Trance" was also the Action Director in Versus, which was 90% of what made Versus so good to begin with, so Imagine that 90% plus, Tak Sakaguchi, the other 10% needed to make the movie great.

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!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2006
Format: DVD
This movie is funny, sometimes intentionally, most of the time not, just like Versus, which well... is one of my favourite bad movies of all time. Versus 2 should be good, since Ryuhei Kitamura has improved considerably over the years... but I digress, you're here for Death Trance, or Tak Sakaguchi...

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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
While I haven't seen "Versus," I enjoyed "Death Trance." The look and cinematography of the movie were visually stunning. The sequence in the bar, which devolves into an epic battle, hints at the zombie like battle that takes place in the forbidden forest. Director Yuji Shimonmura had also teamed with lead actor Tak Sakaguchi in "Versus." My sense while watching the film compares to watching a Japanese Bergman. We see the death imagery of the coffin dragged through forests, the final forest with the skeleton warriors and failed seekers imbedded in trees. Yoko Fujita as the Goddess of Destruction is as lovely as she is deadly. There is a real sense of a Titan clash between Grave (Tak Sakaguchi) and the Goddess. Takanasa Suga, as the monk, follows like a religious repo man who controls the sword that will only come alive in the right hands. The imagery of the little girl who follows the coffin was an ominous use of the child, making the seemingly innocent into the sinister. I took her to be like a soul embodiment of the Goddess waiting for release from the coffin. I found this film to be equal parts fresh and strange. It is too slow moving to be strictly an action genre; therefore, it is more of a cerebral experience trying to figure out the puzzle. I liked the spider-web imagery of the forest as a trap and was struck with the apocalyptic transformation at the end. While I'm not absolutely sure what each small thing meant, this was a gripping viewing experience that had me riveted from beginning to end. Enjoy!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2006
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
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.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2007
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Let me start by saying that Versus was awesome. Most people know of Deathtrance through Versus..that being said,THIS IS NOT VERSUS,not even close. It was entertaining to watch and had some awesome characters. I am going to give it 3 stars because,it tried to outdo Versus and failed. However it is a real good movie to watch and yuck it up with friends!
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2007
Format: DVD
The film "Death Trance," is not the best film out there, in regards to samurai/fantasy, however, it will probably appeal to those viewers who liked "Versus" (maybe). The films main protagonist, Grave (Tak Sakaguchi) stars as a lone quasi-samurai who roams around looking for opponents to fight. Moreover, he carries around with him a coffin, which he stold from a Temple, and supposedly contains the body of a mythical Goddess. Furthermore, according to legend, if the coffin is taken to the Forbidden Forest, then that individual who takes it there will be granted a wish. Hence, Graves' quest is to take it there. The film basically follows Grave on his quest to take the coffin there.

Moreover, this Goddess, who is the Goddess of Destruction, if unleashed will cause complete and total destruction if released on Earth. Also making his way to this Forbidden Forest is one lone surviving monk, who has a magical sword that is somehow related to the coffin itself. He does not know how, or in what way it is related. All this monk knows is that it is important, and that he must ensure that it remains near the coffin. Grave meets up with another quasi-samurai named Sid who is also looking for the coffin. Meanwhile, a large gang is out looking for Grave, including a mysterious swordsman who knows all about the coffin and its magical sword. You will notice in the film the fight scenes are very strange, with guns, and rocket launchers. Definitely not your usual samurai film, however, it is a fantasy.

Basically, the film is about Graves' desire to fight the Goddess of Destruction. Contrary to the myth, the one who releases her will not be granted a wish: Instead she will destroy the world. If and when she is released she will destroy all of Earth, and then everything will be renewed again. That is unless someone happens to kill her. Thus, the reason and rationale behind Graves' desire to fight her: The ultimate fighter to Graves. This is not a great or above average film. In fact, it is more of a below average film. However, the film might appeal to those who like the fantasy/samurai genre. I found too many silly problems with the film, therefore, I recommend the film with extreme caution. It will appeal to some, but not all viewers. Also, I don't think that the action scenes or the fight scenes were as great as many of the viewers stated. Neither go into this film with high expectations, nor take this film too seriously. It's meant to be a fun film, and that's all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2011
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
Hey everyone, I just finished watching the blu-ray. I had already seen the film previously on DVD which I enjoyed so I had to pick up this version

Picture Quality - 5/5

The film is naturally a bit grainy but that adds to the feel of the film. The blu-ray really helps bring the colors and scenery of the film out. Everything looks much more crisp and it really helps with telling whose who during those big fight scenes.

Sound Quality - 5/5

I was incredibly impressed with the sound in this film. The music fits perfectly with the fight scenes. I will admit that the dialogue is a bit quiet for how loud the action scenes are. The dubbing in this film is top notch. I should add that the monk is played by Johnny Young Bosch. Don't worry though, he really pulls is off. I should also add that if you're a fan of Dir en Grey(like myself) You'll love this film as they compose the entire soundtrack.

Movie - 5/5

This is a really difficult film to rate the story for because it's really one of those "figure it out as you go along" type of films. So if I go into too much depth I will spoil something. The main character in the film is a man named Grave played by Tak Sakaguchi of Versus fame. In this film he plays more of an anti-hero type role and has longer hair. I actually much prefered his character in this in comparison to Versus.

The movie takes place in a bleak future. Although to say that it's a post-apocolyptic movie is misleading. It has a very Japanese feel to it, and there is a high chance you will find it very different compared to its Hollywood counter parts. As another reviewer mentioned, having some knowledge of Japanese lore helps with understanding the film.

The fight scenes are the biggest part of the film and contain hand to hand combat, sword combat, and shooting. The majority of the film consists of fighting with bits of story inbetween to guide you through to the conclusion.

I can't say much more about the film without spoilering anything. If you read my review however, and it peaked your interest, I definately recommend giving this film a chance as you will almost certainly not be disappointed.
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