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DOA: Dead or Alive
Year: 2006


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Edko Films, Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
English Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS ES

Director: Corey Yuen Kwai
Cast: Jaime Pressly, Devon Aoki, Holly Valance, Sarah Carter, Natassia Malthe, Kane Kosugi, Matthew Marsden, Eric Roberts, Steve Howey, Brian J. White, Kevin Nash, Collin Chou (Ngai Sing), Derek Boyer, Silvio Simac, Fang Liu, Ying Wang, Robin Shou
The Skinny: As bad as it looks. Moderately entertaining action and plenty of fan service is all DOA: Dead or Alive offers. That should be enough to tell you if this movie is worth seeing.

by Kozo:

Cinematic moneygrabs don't get more crass or obvious than DOA: Dead or Alive. Based on the Tecmo video game, this battling babes film is so awful that calling it a comedy may be charitable. Director Corey Yuen, who once made such entertaining Hong Kong films as My Father is a Hero and So Close, is at the reins here, but Yuen's instincts seem to be only on target for the action. The wire-fu is amusing and can entertain, and the scantily clad women should hold some attraction for red-blooded males. Everything else is average to just plain terrible, from the direction to the acting to the script, which could cause brain hemorrhaging due to its indescribable inanity.

Obviously, a few rounds of the fighting game or its female-ogling spinoffs would probably better serve the target audience than this movie. Not to trivialize gaming fandom, but a large part of the game's appeal is seeing perfectly rendered T&A shake it real-time with a kick-ass physics engine helping things jiggle. Real women can't look as perfect as DOA's digital versions, so isn't a live action version a step down from the voluptuous polygon fantasies of the franchise's male fan base? Didn't anyone involved in DOA's production realize this incredible flaw inherent in a live-action screen adaptation of this particular video game property?

Putting that aside, we'll talk about the "story" of DOA, which we probably shouldn't because it'll remind us of the horror. However, since this is a review, we'll do it anyway. Basically, a bunch of fighters are called to an island run by Doctor Donovan (Eric Roberts in a trademark slimy performance), who oversees the DOA tourney because someone wants to give money to people who fight. The prize purse is a cool 10 million bucks, and the rules are simple: you get called to fight one another at any time and in any place meaning different locations for maximum roughhousing variety.

The match-ups are also potentially incendiary, pitting friend versus friend or even father versus daughter. Kickass pro wrestler Tina Armstrong (Jaime Pressley) gets matched up versus her dad, Bass Armstrong (Kevin Nash) in one of DOA's many featured bouts, leading to an exciting, emotionally charged battle between a father and his estranged daughter. Not. The fight is played for an "aw shucks" payoff that gets punctuated with Bass giving his daughter a goofy "thumbs up" for her leggy ass-kicking. The above scene probably amused some audience members, but quality cinema seekers may be reaching for their motion sickness bags right about now.

Still, a partial thumbs up should be given to Jaime Pressley; she turns in the film's most fitting performance, in that she plays a country hick and does a decent job of it. Nearly everyone else is either miscast or a victim of the terrible script. Kane "Son of Sho" Kosugi plays a rather emasculated version of Ryu Hayabusa, who's also known in the gaming world as Ninja Gaiden. Seeing that popular character marginalized is reason enough for some gaming fans to cry out in pain. At least Kosugi handles his action sequences well, in that he sometimes gets more than three points of contact per shot, instead of the one or two per usually seen for the other actors.

The girls range from decent to god-awful. Sarah Carter is better than the oddly cheery role of Helena Douglas allows her to be, and Holly Valance fills out the role of voluptuous female thief Christie with effective attitude, if not actual acting chops. Faring the worst is Devon Aoki as ninja princess Kasumi; the model-actress is so cold in the role that the screen practically frosts over whenever she appears, and her single facial expression grows very tired very quick. Rounding things out is Corey Yuen regular Collin Chou, who's criminally underused as ninja prince Hayate. Hong Kong action film fans: time to dig out that back library of DVDs.

Oddly, the film doesn't rely on the fighting tourney to define its plot, and instead gives us a silly storyline about misusing the DOA contest to achieve some nefarious, shadowy end. There's also a subplot involving the hunt for a 100 million dollar stash, plus some stuff about Kasumi running away from her ninja clan. The unimaginative story ultimately relegates the fights to obligatory set piece status, with none of them conveying any real power or emotion. There's some occasional canned romance or drama thrown in, but it all seems fake. Also, a bunch of it was left on the cutting room floor - probably because someone realized that extra footage would stretch the film's inanity beyond a tolerable level.

Luckily, the filmmakers left in a beach volleyball scene - an obvious reference to the hit Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball game and an excuse for the female leads to cavort about in bikinis. As a heterosexual male, I thank the filmmakers for that scene, but sorry, the film still sucks. For brain-dead, groan-inducing spectacle aimed towards pre-teen boys, DOA is a runaway success, but anyone with a discerning eye for cinema had best check elsewhere. Spending countless hours playing the DOA games would be time better spent than seeing the film adaptation. In the film's defense, it's cheaper than buying the games, plus it clocks in at only 86 minutes. The negative: that's time you'll never get back. (Kozo 2007)

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen