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DOA: Dead or Alive
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2007

Format: Movie
By:   Corey Yuen (director)
Genre:   Video game T & Action
Released:   June 15, 2007
Review Date:   June 20, 2007
Audience Rating:   PG-13
RevSF Rating:   4/10 (What Is This?)

"Dad, you're not taking this seriously!" – Tina

There are a lot of fighting games out there, and one of the biggest is Dead or Alive. When it came out, it was another in a long line where various characters beat each other to a digital pulp. What made DOA stand out was a feature that the female combatants . . . ah, it would enhance the realism by . . . OK. It had a bouncing breasts gimmick. The bouncing effect and the game itself was ludicrous. And awesome.

As games evolved, so did the DOA franchise. It got better graphics, more characters, and stuck with its selling point, the T&A from its barely dressed female fighters. It had a beach volleyball spinoff, so they could have another reason to strip the ladies down to their bare essentials.

Then Hollywood got involved, turning nearly every recent popular game into a movie. DOA is an obvious choice for adapting, since the studios have been cranking out bad martial arts movies for years. Plus it has the bonus of scantily clad females.

DOA should have been an easy hit: hot women, cool sets, and a time-honored plot to hang a lot of gratuitous violence on. It harkens back to the best video game adaptation, Mortal Kombat. So where did it go wrong? Let me tell you.

The basic plot is indeed, simple. It follows the Bloodsport formula, where the DOA tournament invites the best fighters in the world to come and compete for a huge cash reward. Then it complicates things with unneeded subplots.

Each involves our three heroines, the first being the ninja Kasumi (Devon "Sin City" Aoki). Her brother supposedly died in last year's event. She comes to the tournament to find out the truth. For abandoning her clan to do this, she's pursued by fellow ninja Ayane (Natassia "Elektra" Malthe), who is now honor-bound to kill Kasumi for leaving.

Next up is Christie (Holly Valance). She and her partner Max want to break into the DOA vaults. This gives us a caper-style subplot.

Then there's Tina (Jaime "My Name is Earl" Pressly), the former pro wrestler who wants to prove that she's a real fighter. Her father Bass (actual pro wrestler Kevin Nash from "The Punisher")is mainly for the money and the funny.

Tina and Bass are the best things about the movie. They strike the perfect campy feel for the film, have a ball with their parts, are funny, and every scene with them is great. Everyone else brings the kind of "serious" acting that you can only find in Don Wilson/Cynthia Rothrock flicks.

There's a cute subplot with a computer nerd and the founder's daughter, but the writers go one plot too far with the dastardly villain Donovan (Eric "Heroes" Roberts). I feel bad for Eric here. Every time he does something cool to boost his rep back up, he shoots himself in the foot with a dog. Or something like that.

Donovan has taken over the tournament and uses it for evil ends, as Eric Roberts is wont to do. This involves injecting fighters with nanobots and a nod to the video game. The bots give stats on all the fighters, rates their abilities, and lets the movie have the video game style health bars as people fight. And there's a "WINNER" screen. Thankfully, this little device is not done often. Well, it's done more often than once. But anyway.

Sadly, most of the fights are pretty lame. There's slow motion wirework and weapons play. Most of it is the same old stuff we've seen before. Except it's done under a PG-13 rating. So the huge katana vs. thugs fight leaves lots of groaning mooks, but not one drop of blood anywhere, which sucks out the the thrill factor.

You can have fun cartoon violence in a PG-13 movie, but DOA has no idea how to do it.

The only decent fights are Tina's against her dad on a raft, Kasumi and Ayane's duel in a bamboo forest that's lifted right out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Christie's fight against another girl on a rainy beach. It's mainly memorable for some slow, lingering shots over their shapely . . . um, yeah.

The rest of the fights are badly shot, badly edited or barely there. Worse, when the fights start some momentum, the big plot brings everything to a grinding halt. Then there's the big "boss" fight at the end of our leads against Eric Roberts, who has one of the worst stunt replacements I've ever seen.

To be a success, all DOA had to do was give us cheesy yet fun acting, some cool action and gratuitous T&A. The PG-13 rating and bad direction took away the last two. Only Pressly and Nash give us the first.

I don't think DOA will do well in the theatres, but it will fit right in on cable, with all the other bad D-grade action flicks. Except in those, there's actually blood and bare breasts to try and keep your interest in the dull bits between the fights.

RevolutionSF staff writer Gary Mitchel plays video games for the articles.

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