Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I understand that the majority of film critics across this great land, and probably throughout the world are going crap on this film, but this critic will not be one of them.  I understand the reasons that other critics will be down on this film, calling it exploitative, which it is.  They may call the plot silly and nonsensical, and they would not be incorrect. They may even lament at Eric Roberts doing Kung Fu.  Yes, E-Rob performing roundhouse kicks may be a problem, I won’t argue with that.  But I challenge these so-called critics to show me a better way to pass 82 minutes of their unfulfilled lives than watching ‘DOA:  Dead or Alive’.

What we have with DOA is another movie based on a videogame.  I know, you’d think after the ‘Dooms’ and ‘Double Dragon’s’ and ‘Bloodrayne’s’ of the world have left such an indelible sour taste in our collective mouths that this would someday end, but since it is obviously much easier and much safer to remake, adapt, rehash, and sequelize than to originally create, we have a another movie based on a videogame.  One of the thirty or so that are in various stages of production, so they ain’t going nowhere no time soon.  When I heard, and subsequently read that they were creating a movie out of D.O.A, I almost wept at the tragedy that was to come.  Plus it was being produced by the legendary (For all the wrong reasons) film director Paul W. Anderson.  And if you’ve ever played D.O.A, the story within the game is utter nonsense.  It’s a good game mind you, with action galore and featuring anatomically enhanced women programmed to bounce and sway in a somewhat physically correct way, but a movie?  Pshaw!

But lo and behold, as it turns out it ain’t that bad.  The story, as it goes, it centers around the greatest fighters in the who world are invited to a contest on a remote island hosted by the Mysterious Donovan (E-Rob).  The movie focuses on three of the women invited to the tournament, Kasumi (Devon Aoiki) the leader of some Asian clan who must leave to find her missing brother Hayate (Colin Chou), who was at the previous DOA tourney.  But by doing so she now becomes a renegade Ninja, or Shinobi, and must be hunted and killed by clan assassin Ayane (Natassia Malthe).  There’s Tina Armstrong (Jamie Pressley) who is a professional wrestler hoping to prove herself as a real fighter despite the objections of her WWF dad Bass (Kevin Nash).  Lastly there’s Christie (Holly Valance) who is a highly skilled martial artist and thief who joins her partner / lover Max (Matthew Mardsen) on the island because they hear there’s a boatload of cash just hanging around for the taking.  Soon the ladies realize there’s more at stake than a simple tournament as the Mysterious Donovan has a greater, far more nefarious (albeit ridiculous) plan for our fighters.  Will they be able to thwart him in time?  Three guesses…

The first thing D.O.A. did right was hire veteran director Cory Yuen who has helmed such films as ‘The Transporter’, ‘Jet Li’s The Enforcer’ and ‘Legend’.  He handles all of the action with a sure and steady hand.  This is critical in this type of film since the whole thing is one stylized fight sequence after another, and unlike Yuen’s disappointing turn in ‘The Transporter’  the pace stays brisk and the incredibly lame story is simply a vehicle to get us from fight sequence to fight sequence.  The filmmakers also did right by D.O.A., similar to my all time fave of a guilty pleasure, ‘Torque’, by keeping it short and sweet.  They didn’t weigh us down with melodrama or plot twists, nor did they make any of our actresses engage in long soliloquies of any sort.  What little dialog there was was trite and insignificant.  For example, during a fight in a bamboo forest (bamboo forest?) between Kasumi and Asane, Kasumi correctly asks Asane ‘Why didn’t you hunt my brother when he left?’ Asane responds ‘He was different’ Kasumi retorts, ‘It’s because you loved him, isn’t it!’  I’m telling you, dialog like that just doesn’t write itself folks.  The filmmakers also opted for no greater messages either, such as say ‘The Transporter’ which had a message that human trafficking is bad.  Or ‘Mortal Kombat’ which tried to tell us that world domination is bad, or ‘Resident Evil’ which tried to tell us that genetically manipulated flesh eating zombies are bad, though I’m not buying that one.  No, the overlying message in D.O.A. is that 110 pound women who work out look good in bikinis.  With the underlying subtext message that 110 pound women who work out also look good wet.  I get that message.

All of the characters from the video game make an appearance in some way with the notable exception of Jan Lee, a Bruce Lee type figure from the game.  I wonder why they left him out.  Kane Kosugi, son of the great Sho Kosugi, makes a notable turn as video game icon Ryu Hyabusa, who in this film serves as admirer and protector of Kasumi. Kosugi is easily the most skilled fighter in the film requiring the least amount of wire and camera tricks to make him look good.

So the Academy won’t be paying this one any special visits come April or whenever they have those awards.  Don’t we really go to the movies to be entertained for a minute or two and maybe see women in bikinis kick a little ass?  Maybe not.  It may be faint praise, but as far as videogame movies go, this one rockets to the top of my list.  Yes, even in front of ‘Mario Brothers’ I’m afraid.

Real Time Web