Director: Corey Yuen
Starring: Jaime Pressly, Devon Aoki, Holly Valance, Sarah Carter, Natassia Malthe, Kane Kosugi, Eric Roberts
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 60
Scantily clad women fight.
DOA: Dead or Alive’s dumb story, total lack of a premise, and randomness clearly keep the film from scoring high on an aggregate. But if you have low expectations, enjoy solid martial arts fighting, and like women, DOA is hardly a waste of time. You may be surprised and find that this 87-minute film entertained you.
Let’s start with this: DOA is a terrible film. The stupidity of the movie is impressive. The best example I can think of is the entire premise of the movie. There is the thinnest story involving a martial arts tournament held on an extravagant island palace in the orient. The organizer of the tournament is in reality the evil villain, who uses the tournament as a front for downloading the participants’ ultimate moves into his computer program and then making high-tech sunglasses with the data embedded. These glasses will then enable the wearer to beat any fighter in the world. This is a wonderful idea of course, until the sunglasses fall of. Which gives you a perfect example of how utterly inane this entire film is.
Scenes, motives, and actions often make little sense. If there is any premise, it is that there is no premise. There are too many goofy elements to list them all, but here are some of the hilarious examples. The multimillionaire evil villain keeps his fortune in cash, in a safe on the island, with the access code tattooed onto his former boss’ daughter’s back. Invitations to the tournament come flying at participants from the middle of nowhere in the form of high-tech metallic shuriken. It’s like FedEx on steroids. Parachuting off a temple? No problem, we can deliver. On a boat in the South China sea? No problem, we’re there. Throughout the entire movie—which mainly consists of violent fight after violent fight (and a beach volleyball game tossed in as a tie-in to the DOA volleyball game)—nobody bleeds or gets bruised, except for some slightly dinged pirates at the end. Heck, except for the rare smudge, no one in this film even gets dirty. The peak of this incredulity are two large, lengthy swordfights where apparently people fall over when you pretend to slice them up.
If you’re an engaged reader, you’re probably thinking I hated this film. And no critic in his or her right mind should admit to liking this film. As a coherent film, it is a mess. But I am not a critic in his right mind, and I’m reviewing this film as an action film, so we have some leeway.
Working to this film’s advantage is the fact that it is based on a video game. For the most part, movies based on video games suck. And my expectations for a movie based on a fighting game are even less. So I was pleasantly impressed that DOA bothered to toss a story into the mix at all, was doubly impressed that I could understand it, and even more impressed that in some miraculous way, they actually told the story. And it’s equally apparent that this film never really expects anyone to take the story element seriously anyway. Low expectations can make for good entertainment, and DOA takes advantage of that.
But where DOA actually succeeds as an action film is in its martial arts fighting sequences. This is the forte of director Corey Yuen, and he works magic with the action in DOA. The fights are fast, creative, and elemental. The physicality of the women fighters—who are the focus of the film—is quite impressive. They jump, gyrate, and deliver round-house kicks with remarkable athleticism. The main actors trained for four hours a day for three months before making the film, and it shows. There is a strong stylistic similarity here to the fights of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In many ways DOA is a derivative work of less impact, but still, the fight scenes are plenty engaging.
But action is clearly not enough to save this film, for there a definitely better films to watch for martial arts action. No, where this film rescues itself is in its focus on beautiful, scantily clad women doing the fighting! Now, I could say the obligatory and politically correct line: “DOA will appeal to the sex-deprived teen male, but if you’re past the age of thirteen, you’ll likely find better ways to spend your time.” And at times, yes, DOA does go over the top with juvenile crotch shots that weaken the film. But several of the women are gorgeous and highly athletic. Their fight scenes are dynamic and vibrant. The babe factor of this film is sky high, and even more helpful is that some of the women do respectable jobs acting. Holly Valance, as the assassin/thief Christie, does a fair job in her role, and leads the cast in the looks department. Jaime Pressly steals the top acting award, as she puts a sassy southern spin on Tina, a former pro wrestler looking to win the tournament. On the lower end, Devon Aoki and Natassia Malthe come across lifeless in their roles, and Devon stands out as the least appealing of the actresses.
And while the film clearly is aiming for the young male audience, the hunk factor in this film won’t disappoint female viewers. Brian White, as Zack, leads the male cast in the looks department, and most of the other male actors are equally athletic and impressive physical specimens.
The end result is that I’d be lying to myself if I panned this film with a bad rating. Sure, the dumb story, total lack of a premise, and randomness of the film clearly keep it from scoring high on an aggregate. But if you have low expectations, enjoy solid martial arts fighting, and like eye candy, DOA is hardly a waste of time. You may be surprised to find that this 87-minute film entertained you.
According to Holly Valance, about 40 bikinis were ruined while making this film.
Consistent Premise: 9
Body Count: 7
Time to First Dead Body: 1 hour, 16 minutes, 30 seconds
Special Effects: 83
[tags]Dead or Alive, DOA, movie review, action movie, Corey Yuen, Jaime Pressly, Devon Aoki, Holly Valance, Sarah Carter, Natassia Malthe, Kane Kosugi, Eric Roberts[/tags]