When my bud Trashcanman reviewed the “Dead or Alive Xtreme 2“ video game, I knew I just had to review the U.S. made film. "D.O.A.: Dead or Alive" as everyone knows is based on the Video game franchise of the same name. This obvious money-grab was released in mid-2006 in Asia before in the U.S. possibly because of the larger market for video game inspired movies. For this reason, I managed to own the region-3 Asian release even before the movie hit U.S. theaters. Directed by Corey Yuen (Transporter, So Close) an acclaimed Martial arts choreographer, (albeit not as renowned as the legendary Yuen Woo-Ping) D.O.A. looks promising. After all, Jet Li quoted Corey Yuen In Black Belt magazine as "..if I need something fresh, I go to Corey Yuen."
A tournament called D.O.A. is being held in a remote Island by a man named Donovan (Eric Roberts). Three beautiful but lethal women are invited to compete. Tina (Jaime Pressley), Kasumi (Devon Aoki), and Christie (Holly Valance). Each of the three female leads have their own motivation and has their own baggages to carry. Once there, they must battle their way up the fighter rankings through a bunch of other seasoned fighters to reach the finals. Once in the final phase, the women uncover a hidden "sinister" secret that is the true reason for the competition. Aided by Helena (hottie Sarah Carter) and Hayabusa (Kane Kosuji), they must either join forces or perish...
Corey Yuen’s sensibilities are on target with “DOA”. Since the movie is based on the video game, expect something with a simple plot with scantily-clad women engaging in fisticuffs that channels the elements of the game. The game’s fighting engine was very similar to “Virtua Fighter” with one major difference; a perfectly executed T & A shake that just helps things…well, jiggle a lot. Real life actresses cannot look nearly as perfect as the polygon rendered females of the game, and may seem disappointing to the game’s fan base. Hey, wake up, boys, these are real women and not your fantasies made to come to life. The film does pay enough homage to the game and even has…ahem, VOLLEYBALL which is a nice touch to get the actresses to wear bikinis since there is a game called "D.O.A. Beach Volleyball". (I love women in bikinis) What can we expect? The game itself is renowned for its hard-hitting fights and titillation factor ("bouncing boobs" and skimpy outfits) so the film just exploits those factors. The women in “DOA” are sexy in their own way and the fights are combustible in a way that pits friend versus friend, father against daughter.
It is fairly obvious that Corey Yuen has a limited budget to work with. Still, he manages to pull off an accelerated fast-paced action film that is somewhat hard-hitting and definitely visually stylish. While the plot is lacking and with almost no decent character development, Corey goes for the throat with a lot of mano-o-mano fights and as much "PG-13" brutality (no blood) he can muster to compensate for the lackluster plot. The wire-fu can be amusing and can entertain; the sexy actresses can wake up the hot-blooded male and the extensive fight choreography is the true "lure" of the film. The film is based on a video game so realism in the fights are out the door. Everything else about the film is pretty run of the mill to just plain bad. The plot is very unimaginative as it sidesteps the tournament as the film’s central theme but instead goes for a reprehensible plot about using the tournament as a means to an end. Inject some subplots such as Kasumi abandoning her clan and a missing $ 100 million dollar stash and the film loses its focus very quickly.
I do have to give credit where it is due. Despite the terrible script, Jaime Pressley gave a good performance as Tina the wrestler; she gives her character a country hick persona but for some reason, she fit that persona. Kane Kosugi plays Hayabusa who also plays the key character in Ninja Gaiden; his character is badly marginalized although Kosugi does give credibility to his fight scenes. Holly Valance plays the sexy thief, Christie with convincing allure and charisma but sadly her acting was a little wooden. Sarah Carter (Skinwalkers) portrays her Helena character with more zest than the script allowed her to have. Natassia Malthe (again from “Skinwalkers”) plays Ayane but plays an obligatory role. Devon Aoki (Sin City) plays the ninja princess Kasumi; and she just felt a little uneasy with her role as she gives only a single emotion throughout the film. Collin Chou and Robin Shou were underused but it was a fun treat to see Kevin Nash play Tina‘s father. There’s an unnecessary ‘nerdy’ guy who is so annoying and Eric Roberts was so miscast as the main baddie. The silly plot just renders the fights as obligatory set pieces and doesn‘t feel that it is a high stakes game. There is some occasional canned melodrama injected into it, but it all felt a little fake.
D.O.A. remains true to its roots, as there is enough tease to make a male excited. The shots of a few tanned skin and sexy curves were abundant to satisfy the raw sex appeal of the games. The film is short, and the ending gives you a little tease of the possibility of a sequel. Corey Yuen made every effort to bring the video game to life, but I guess Corey‘s a better fight choreographer than a storyteller. "D.O.A." is a hyper-accelerated-kinetic stylish action film that gets the fight sequences (for a Hollywood film) just right and maybe that's the best anyone can hope for given its source material. It is a moderately fun action film with plenty of fan service that satisfies the brain-dead, heterosexual male interests; those who like their movies with depth and intricate content are better off looking elsewhere. Its' a video game with hot chicks with bouncing attributes while they fight, what else can we expect?