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Death Trance
2005; directed by Yuji Shimomura

A goofy bit of fun cinema from the action director of the Japanese hit Versus, Yuji Shimomura, Death Trance is the sort of film where ninjas fight with guns hidden in swords while heavy metal plays in the background, and yet for some reason, everything seems to make perfect sense. It's not anything close to deep cinema, but for action fans, this should do the trick.

Held in an unspecified time and place, Death Trance centers on a coffin that will supposedly grant anyone's wish. The coffin is stolen from a monestary by a warrior looking for the ultimate battle, and so the monks send a young acolyte to retrieve it. As the story progresses, it starts becoming clear that the tales about the coffin actually containing the Goddess of Destruction just might be true.

At points, Death Trance's story frankly doesn't make a lick of sense -- characters seem to come and go at a whim, and their motivations are really never fully explained. But Shimomura keeps things moving fast enough that one doesn't really feel the need to concentrate on the shortcomings in the story, and the actors -- especially Kentaro Seagal (Steven's son) in his movie debut -- look like they had fun making the movie, and that feeling transfers on to the viewer.

There's also a good amount of action to keep the movie rolling along. It might not be as violent or hard-hitting as some viewers might like, but the frantic style fits the film's mise-en-scene just fine. Overall, Death Trance definitely does have a bit of cheese factor, but since it never really seems to take itself too seriously, the viewer can forgive the over-the-top nature and enjoy the proceedings.


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