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Gungrave volume three

directors: Toshiyuki Tsuru and others

88 minutes (12) 2003
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Brandon became a killer for the mafia in order to protect his childhood friend Harry, and the love of his life, Maria. Now Harry is a rising star within the mob known as the Millennium Group, and cold, skilful Brandon has become the public face of their power.

But now, rival mob boss Cannon Vulcan has teamed up with a killer named Bloodwar, and unleashed a team of indestructible undead assassins to wipe out his rivals. Harry and Brandon are tasked to deal with this threat, but Bloodwar is a tough opponent even for Brandon, and Harry is insanely ambitious - could giving him access to this dangerous technology be playing straight into his hands?

This tale of rival mafia clans obviously aspires to John Woo's territory - gun battles, honour, and the conflicting demands of friendship and loyalty. And, as John Woo knock-offs go, it's really not bad. The shabby warehouses and sleek boardrooms are convincingly rendered, the characters are well differentiated, and only the clunky characterisation of soldier turned psycho Bloodwar jars.

Admittedly, it doesn't have a great deal of psychological depth: Maria in particular is a cipher, and the dialogue can be heavy-handed. The plot is perfunctory, moving us from one shootout to the next, and our supposedly smart heroes take an astonishingly long time to realise that their opponents can't be killed. Mind you, since one of their immortal opponents does conveniently stay dead when the plot demands it, perhaps they're just as confused as the writers...

However, this slick, sharp animation does hold the attention, and it's easy to pick up even if you haven't seen the previous episodes. If you're more interested in action than characterisation, Gungrave will hit the spot.

DVD extras: detailed design sketches of the characters, two trailers, and brief written credits.

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