D.O.A.: Dead Or Alive (2006)


STARRINGJaime Pressly - Tina Armstrong
Holly Valance - Christie Allen
Devon Aoki - Princess Kasumi
Sarah Carter - Helena Douglas
Kane Kosugi - Ryu Hayabusa
Steve Howey - Weatherby
Matthew Marsden - Maximilian Marsh
Eric Roberts - Dr. Victor Donovan

Year - 2006

Score - 1.5 Howls Outta 4

I never understood why video games have turned into such horrible film adaptations. You'd think that since the idea is right there in the palm of their hands that movie producers would have no problem making a decent watchable film based on the game. But out of so many that have been adapted, I can probably count the number of adaptations that were decent on one hand. And they seem to get worse and worse as the years go on. Amazing.

So even though the ratio of good video-game adaptations to bad one is extremely low, I still took a chance on D.O.A.: DEAD OR ALIVE. Based on the fighting games featuring scantily-clad babes whose body parts jiggle every which way for the amusement of teenage boys everywhere, it has a lot going against it. Fighting games don't usually make good films. I enjoy MORTAL KOMBAT now as I did 12 years ago, but I'm still reminded of the horrible STREET FIGHTER and MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION. So I wasn't expecting much with this film. Also, it was released everywhere BUT the United States in 2006. It was finally released here in 2007, but only lasted like a week in theaters because it bombed so badly. Plus many reviewers have really bashed this one. So I was kind of apprehensive. But I liked the actors involved and realized the games were pretty cheesy to begin with, so I decided to take a chance on it. And sure, the film is very bad...but I can't say I wasn't entertained.

PLOT (if you can call it that)
A bunch of the world's top fighters are selected to take part in the D.O.A. Tournament on some private island owned by Victor Donovan (Eric Roberts). These fighters include pro-wrestler Tina Armstrong (Jaime Pressly), clever thief Christie Allen (Holly Valance), the daughter of the late D.O.A. creator Helena Douglas (Sarah Carter), and Japanese stoic princess Kasumi (Devon Aoki). For Kasumi, the tournament is personal as her brother was supposedly murdered fighting in it. Mastermind Victor Donovan sets up the matches and tries to see who are the best fighters in the world, using that info to his own sinister advantage.

REVIEWD.O.A.: DEAD OR ALIVE is not a great film. Far from a great film. But it's bad in a way that it's actually kind of charming and silly. That's actually pretty perfect because the games this film is based on are pretty damn silly themselves. To be quite honest, DEAD OR ALIVE is one of the few video-game adaptations that's actually similar to the video game itself. The T&A aspect of the games is definitely in full effect here in the film. The fights are just as bizarre here in the film as they are in the game. And while the film is entertaining on a brainless level, that lack of substance and depth of the film's flimsy story and how it progresses to point A to point B really hurts it. Yes, the video games lack depth too but at least you have some sort of control of it. Yes, the visuals enhance the film. But it's like having a crush on the most beautiful boy or girl in school and then finding out they have the IQ and personality of an eggplant. D.O.A. reminds me of that.

Let me start with the positives. I really enjoyed the beginning portion of the film where Tina, Kasumi, and Christie are introduced. Each girl has their own segment and it pretty much tells us who they are really quickly. My favorite was undoubtedly Christie's intro, where she's about to be arrested for stealing. She's dressed in nothing but a towel and seduces the hotel security guards by going topless, kicking their asses while stylistically putting on her bra and then escaping. Just a really cool scene that's presented and directed well by Corey Yuen.

Speaking of toplessness, you don't see any explicit boobs or ass here. It's a PG-13 rated film and hides the body parts pretty well. You do see the girls in very tiny bikinis though, which definitely raised more than my enjoyment level, if you get me. There's even a bikini-clad sequence based on the video game's popular volleyball series. Drop a hint of faux-lesbianism and you got yourself softcore porn for pre-pubescent boys and horny old men. But then again, isn't that the demographic for the games? So it works to its advantage.

I even enjoyed some of the fight sequences. Really cool and exaggerated wire work and some nice choreography really brought the video game to life on screen. I personally enjoyed the Tina fight with Bayman (Derek Boyer). It had great choreography and some really cool moments where they beat the crap out of each other. Jaime Pressly did some nice work in that scene. I didn't think she could bend her body and move like that. However, the fights did look a bit dated and cheesy. It's been almost 10 years since THE MATRIX changed fight choreography and yet DEAD OR ALIVE is still following it instead of doing something more realistic or innovative. I wish it was more like ONG BAK or even THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM where it looks actually believable. The fights were too CGI-ish and you can tell wires were used for most of the special moves. I'm not knocking the fact that the fighting was cartoonish [this was based on a video game and it matches the style well]. I'm just saying that it wasn't fresh at all and I think the film would have been a bigger success if it was.

The film would have also been more successful if there was an actual cohesive story. I have no idea what this film was about other than hot girls fighting on some island and then battling Eric Roberts and his weird hair at the end. Oh, and there were Ray-Bans that downloaded fighting styles. I know the video games don't have much narrative either, but every film should have one. I can bash STREET FIGHTER all day and all night but at least it had a story I can somewhat chew on - and then spit right back out. This has nothing. NOTHING. I couldn't care about anyone in this film. Sure, the girls were hot as hell to look at. Doesn't mean I should give a damn about them. No character development. No narrative that I could follow and understand. I've seen porn films with more substance story wise and dialogue-wise. Yeah, I laughed at the dialogue but not for the right reasons. Just a really dumb and corny film.

Corey Yuen, who directed THE TRANSPORTER, directs the action well. But he directs the half-dressed women in bikinis even better. Nothing more, nothing less really. That was what I was expecting visually and it was done very well. The pacing and editing was pretty bad though and that could have been better polished. But this isn't a director's vehicle and he wasn't going for any awards with D.O.A. With this kind of film, I can deal with that.

The acting was a mixed bag as well. I loved Jaime Pressly as Tina Armstrong. She played it tough and backed it up with her athleticism. There was a bit of Joy [from MY NAME IS EARL] in the performance, but it worked well. And she was the hottest of all the girls in my opinion. I've had a thing for her for years, so I'm biased. I also liked Holly Valance as Christie Allen. Very hot and loved the Australian accent. She also moved very well. Very charismatic and a decent actress as well. I heard she's rumored to play Cammy in the reboot for STREET FIGHTER. I wouldn't complain about that choice. Sarah Carter was cute as Helena Douglas. She was a decent actress too and was charming.

Devon Aoki was okay as Kasumi. She was a bit too stoic and serious to play the part, I thought. Kasumi is usually very upbeat and bubbly. Aoki played it the total opposite. I don't know...it's like she plays the same role in every film she's been in. It worked well in SIN CITY but I think she should have loosened up for this film. Kane Kosugi of NINJA WARRIOR fame was okay as Hayabusa. Didn't like the portrayal here though. Hayabusa is a badass in the video games but was kind of a wimp and love-sick puppy here. Wasn't a total overhaul of the character but didn't feel quite right either.

And Eric Roberts...oh Mr. Roberts...what the hell was up with you in this film? Or your hair? Was that even your hair? Just a very lazy and boring performance. I usually like the guy in stuff but this was just bad. Not even funny bad. He definitely took the role for a paycheck and nothing else. He didn't make for a captivating villain at all. He looked like a playboy who didn't realize he was aging horribly and that no woman would want anything to do with him. If he didn't play the role too seriously, maybe I would have enjoyed him more. But I didn't have that luxury. Shame.

THE FINAL HOWLD.O.A.: DEAD OR ALIVE isn't the worst film in the history of cinema but it's far from fantastic. Appreciate the likeness to the video games, but besides boobs and ass, this film doesn't really have that much to offer. Fans of the video games and horndogs will love this film. Everyone else should rent it for a one-time watch. Or not. Believe me, you won't miss much if you don't. It's a bad film but it has enough unintentional laughs worthy of a viewing. Plus you can pause during the naughty bits. Was that a boob? Oh, it was an elbow. Damn.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think we've ever seen a successful video game to movie port. So this one isn't really surprising.


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