doa: dead or alive is based on the pervy 3d fighting game series. 3d not as in the gimmick where you have to pay extra and put on special glasses to watch a movie but 3d as in your character in the game can move not only left and right but also up and down. i don’t think it’s much of a technological improvement. i’m more of a street fighter man myself.
doa is also one of the few series i can think of that has spin-offs into an entirely different genre of games. in dead or alive xtreme beach volleyball, dead or alive Xtreme 2, and dead or alive paradise, instead of fighting, the mostly female characters play beach volleyball or swim, or gamble or suntan while you the pervert can take pictures to commemorate. it kind of takes the “why don’t you take a picture it’ll last longer” advice to heart. on second thought, maybe they should make a 3d-glasses-required version of these games and this movie.
the doa: dead or alive dvd though, is released by dimension EXTREME. that in itself is kind of funny since dimension is the genre label of miramax, the award-baiting “indie.” so i guess that makes doa: dead or alive the genre movie amongst genre movies. so don’t expect mild dimension movies like scream 1, 2, 3, 4, children of the corn 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, the crow 1, 2, 3, 4, or spy kids 1, 2, 3, 4. this is the extreme shit.
this shit is so extreme that it’s the only dimension EXTREME movie that’s rated pg-13.
doa: dead or alive tells the story of three fighters, with different fighting styles, being invited to a tournament on an island that’s run by an evil mastermind. though initially it’s every (wo)man for themselves, they eventually work together to take down the island leader.
you may have noticed that could have been the plot summary for enter the dragon, and you would be right, if bruce lee had clevage and wears bikinis all the time. doa: dead or alive is essentially enter the dragon meets charlie’s angels: the movie. it’s what i was thinking when i was watching the movie but in the special features of the dvd, one of the producers actually said it, so it’s exactly the movie that they wanted to make. instead of the T that the games focus on, the movie seems to focus more on the A.
most of the screen time is devoted to kasumi, played by devon aoki (2 fast 2 furious, sin city). she’s on the island because she refuses to believe that her brother is dead during the last tournament until she sees the dead body, which is a rationale i can get behind, mostly when it comes to bugs and spiders in my apartment.
jaime pressly (tv’s my name is earl, the journey: absolution, not another teen movie, joe dirt, torque, i love you man) plays tina, a former american wrestler who just happens to be in the pacific. she’s there because she’s sick of people calling wrestling fake. her father, also a wrestler, tags along. wrestler kevin nash plays her father.
the third fighter is christie played by holly valance (taken, national lampoon’s pledge this! with paris hilton). she’s the master thief whom we see in the opening taking down three cops trying to bust her for burglary, where instead of two guns thrown in the air, we get a gun and a black bra.
though it may seems like there are a lot of backstories on the characters, doa: dead or alive doesn’t waste too much time on things like that. what’s great here is that each of these short backstory sequence takes minutes the most. and at the end of each short, there’s a character title card like they would in a video game. these three sequences, in and of themselves, covers pretty much the different decades and genres of hong kong movies. from martial arts to westernized martial arts to the fighting-as-i-sit jackie chan type stunts.
two other fighters eventually enter the scene: purple-haired ayane played by natassia malthe (lake placid, halloween resurrection, elektra, bloodrayne 2 & 3, in the name of the king 2) as the lover of kasumi’s brother, and helena played by sarah carter (wishmaster 3, final destination 2, national lampoon’s pledge this! with paris hilton), who’s the daughter of the founder of the doa tournament.
directed by corey yuen, who as an action choreographer and a director has quite an impressive resume (four words: jet li, stephen chow), doa: dead or alive is way better and more entertaining than i ever imagined. it is best seen as a hong kong action/comedy that they used to whip up every other week where the only thing that matters is the entertaining value. any illusions of artiness is destroyed by the opening scene, where we see kasumi putting a cricket in a box and then promptly saying “i’m not a cricket in a box.” this is not the curse of the crouching hero with the hidden daggers type martial arts movies. this is a self-aware playful video game adaptation where every other scene transition has the doa logo as if they are going to a commercial break.
even casual filmgoers will not have any problem noticing the bad guy as soon as eric roberts shows up. with grey hair and sunglasses, he thankfully didn’t ham it up as most actor would as the villian. his evil masterplan is actually quite believable in context, except for the sunglasses part. he could have at least spend the dough and invest in contact lenses.
i could do without the nerdy tech guy who has a crush on helena though. not so much his character but i don’t think it’s necessary to make him wear glasses and go with the michael cera emo shit. the final fight between eric roberts and the girls also doesn’t seem as choreographed and exciting as it should have been. and considering all the foreign movies that miramax and dimension bought and delayed and recut, this is the one movie where i was hoping for a longer cut and an unrated version. unfortunately, everyone (at least in the u.s.) gets the same pg-13 blockbuster exclusive version.
it’s a brisk, fast paced 87 minutes. at no time did i feel the need to check the timer to see how much of the movie is left. be it good or bad, it is rather faithful to its video game source material. also, unlike most video game movies i’ve seen, it has just the right amount of plot to hang the action scenes together. it also doesn’t take itself seriously, unlike most of the video game movies i’ve seen. since he’s already made a good version of charlie’s angels with so close, i guess doa: dead or alive is kind of his version of charlie’s angels: full throttle. unlike that movie though, corey yuen didn’t give me time to contemplate the concept of film like charlie’s angels 2. so for the record, he’s made two charlie’s angels type movies both of which are superior to the two mcg charlie’s angels movies. it may have something to do with my late night viewing along with alcohol enhancement but doa: dead or alive is the best video game based movie i’ve seen this month, and probably ever.