Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Death Trance (2005)

Death Trance is an outrageously fun and visually stunning martial arts/fantasy flick. I am by no means a martial arts or even a fantasy fan, but the film’s fast pace, excellent cast, flair, impressive action sequences and amazing visuals really got me hooked!

For years, people have been after an enchanted coffin that is said to grant wishes by whoever opens it in the Forbidden Forest. No one has ever been able to steal it from the monks, who guard it carefully in a remote monastery. Nonetheless, mysterious warrior Grave (Tak Sakaguchi) manages to snatch the coffin and begins lugging it towards the Forbidden Forest to cash in on its promised wish. Little does he know that the coffin is actually the resting place of the Goddess of Destruction, and, if opened, she’ll, you know, destroy the world.

As Grave marches on towards his prize, a strange little girl (Honoka Asada) and coffin in tow, he faces off against others who would like nothing more than to take the coffin from him to have the wishes for themselves. An apprentice monk named Ryuen (Takamasa Suga) is dispatched from the monastery to stop Grave, or at least find the “Chosen One” who will be able to fight off the Goddess if she is unleashed. The monk and Grave are joined by punk wanderer-warrior Sid (Steven Seagal’s son Kentaro Seagal) and mysterious woman named Yuri (Yuki Takeuchi), both who have different motivations for acquiring the coffin.

Will Grave reach the Forbidden Forest and have his wish granted? Can Ryuen stop the coffin from being opened? Who is the adorable little girl that tags along after the coffin? What do Sid and Yuri have to do with the coffin? Who is the Chosen One and how will he or she stop the Goddess of Destruction if she is unleashed?

These questions and more are all answered in the quirky, action-packed and fun Death Trance! The film blends styles from the past, present and future to create a crazy atmosphere where anything goes! For example, old-fashioned medieval samurai costumes and swords are used alongside modern motorcycles and guns, creating a fantasy world removed from our own. The costumes themselves are impressive, from the two gothic Lolita warriors to the bad-ass feudal Japan samurai robes that mix leather, studs, satin and metal. Not only are the costumes over-the-top, but so are some of the characters, including a pair of blood-sucking ninja spiders and a group of zombies!

The amazing fight scenes only add to the wild and fantastical edge of the film. Considering Death Trance is from the same people that brought us Versus, it’s easy to see why it is such a fast-paced, action-packed film. The fight scenes are absolutely flawless, packed with energy and carefully framed with the camera, giving you the impression that you are actually there. The final battle alone, featuring the Goddess of Destruction and Grave suspended in mid-air as they hack and slash at each other, is a special FX marvel. As they fight, their droplets of blood float around them like blooming red flowers, creating a truly mesmerizing set-piece.

As for the acting, Tak Sakaguchi (who also starred in Versus and Battlefield Baseball) does an amazing job as the bad ass Grave. Girls, get ready to swoon because the combination of his fighting skills (he does all his own stunts) and high cheekbones make Sakaguchi a real lady-killer! The rest of the cast, including Takamasa Suga, Kentaro Seagal and Yuki Takeuchi, do a wonderful job as well, both in the fight scenes and with the humor sprinkled liberally throughout the movie.

Some may complain about the overly simplistic plot that doesn’t delve too deep into the mythos of the coffin or the “Chosen One.” I was a little let down that the film lacked in the story department, but that didn’t really dampen my love for this film at all. The rest of the film is so bombastic and bad ass (yes, I realize I’ve now said “bad ass” three times in this review!) that it can withstand the lack of plot.

I really am at loss for words to describe just how awesome Death Trance is. Whether you are a fan of martial arts films or not, Death Trance will impress you with its fast-paced action, cute humor, heart-pounding fight scenes and beautiful visuals.

Don’t miss out on the entrancing Death Trance!

Available from Amazon!

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